USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday helped crop insurance leaders from 30 countries kick off the International Crop Insurance Conference in Kansas City, Mo.
"There are few people in the world today who can say that their work touches every single person on the planet, every single day. But farmers can say that," the secretary said during remarks to the attendees. "Farmers are powerful, but their charge is not without its challenges."
Today's farmer must deal with resource concerns and extreme weather, Vilsack explained, and crop insurance will be key to a farmer's ability to do so in the future.
"In the wake of a devastating disaster, crop insurance offers a lifeline," he said. "It is one of the most important, reliable, and cost-effective parts of the safety net here in the United States."
Crop insurance gives farmers "hope during tough times" and "the gift of peace of mind," according to Vilsack, who also detailed policy advancements made to the U.S. crop insurance system in recent years to improve its availability and affordability.
"Crop insurance has expanded because it works for farmers and it works for our taxpayers," the secretary said of the public-private partnership, which is overseen by the USDA, serviced by private-sector insurance companies, and partially funded by farmers.
The success of the U.S. system is one reason the International Association of Agricultural Production Insurers chose America as the site for its conference, marking the first time that the group has met outside of Europe.
"We are here because the U.S. crop and revenue insurance program is the most developed and the most efficient system for farmers in the world," AIAG President Kurt Weinberger said during his opening remarks.
Weinberger also noted that participants in this week's summit will be busy discussing how farmers can use new technologies, new insurance products, new government policies, and new farming practices to deal with climate change and market volatility. The outcome of those discussions will be vitally important.
"Agriculture was, agriculture is, and agriculture will be the most important sector in the world because farmers are feeding the world's population," he said.