Lana Cusick, 202-720-3325
A VERY EASY DECISION
CUMBERLAND COUNTY, NJ, Jan 28, 2011 - Frank Baitinger, III is a fourth generation farmer in Shiloh, NJ. He started out in 1975 with four acres of tomatoes, growing his business until he had 550 acres of tomatoes in 2007. His business also included custom harvesting for other canners in Virginia and up the East Coast to New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Throughout the years, he has grown a wide variety of crops, including bell peppers, butternut squash, peaches, apples, nectarines, asparagus, okra, soybeans, blackberries, and raspberries. His main business was canning tomatoes, but he has since shifted production to wine grapes.
Crop insurance was a must for Frank. He purchased it for his tomatoes as soon as it was available in New Jersey. He found that it was a very economical investment. “We looked at the numbers, and to go from CAT coverage to the highest level of coverage was very affordable.” During that first year of insurance, his farm experienced a hurricane that destroyed 80 acres of his tomato crop right before harvest. He says he had “in the neighborhood of $2,500 per acre in that crop, and if you do the math, it was a large claim.”
That year, Frank was also surprised to find that the Farm Service Agency was making disaster payments to those who purchased crop insurance. He says, “We were rewarded for having crop insurance. We got paid twice.”
He also found that crop insurance was a wise choice for his soybeans. He purchased the 75-percent CRC plan for them, and one year had an 8-bushel per acre yield. Another year, he had a loss due to poor quality beans. He says of crop insurance, “It’s a benefit we have in this country, and we use it.”
When Frank saw profit margins shrinking, he rearranged his business. He says he was “growing tomatoes for the same price we grew them for 10 years ago,” while his costs have increased and profit margin decreased. He removed 220 acres of fruit trees and now focuses on wine grapes. His existing facilities were easy to shift into a winery and he hopes to make his own wine soon. Frank and a friend participated in a wine school, and their first barrel of wine won an international award.
Frank has some words of advice to other farmers regarding crop insurance: “I would highly recommend it. It’s a great safety net, you can’t beat the deal they have, you don’t have to pay for it until [after harvest].” He reasons that after harvest time, you may or may not have a crop to sell. “One way or another you will have money - if you have a crop failure, you have the insurance. It’s basically just the same time the premium’s due. To me, it was a very easy decision.”
The Garden State Crop Insurance Education Initiative is a crop insurance and risk management education program in New Jersey. It is a joint program of USDA's Risk Management Agency, Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.