Challenging Belief in the Law of Small Numbers
Introduction: The context of row crop risk management continues to grow more complex. While the magnitude of price and yield risk changes over time, the development of sophisticated risk management tools and complex government policies may improve growers’ ability to manage risk -- if these instruments are used correctly. Conversely, these instruments may actually increase risk exposure if used incorrectly. Gone are the days when growers had access only to individual yield insurance and national triggered price programs. In 1996, revenue insurance became available for many crop growers. For most major crops, the acreage covered by revenue insurance now far exceeds that covered by yield insurance. The 2008 farm bill created the complex risk policies of ACRE and SURE (Ubilava et al.). Mitchell et al. argue that ACRE, which subsumed multiple revenue risks and integrated with other risk instruments, was difficult for growers to understand and difficult for county USDA officials to implement. Current farm bill proposals are now focused on various shallow loss programs such as Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), Stacked Income Protection Plan (STAX) and Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) which layer risk protection on top of crop insurance. Thus, producers are likely to continue to be confronted with complex risk management tools which may overlap or leave gaps in risk protection. Further, the decision becomes even more complex when one considers the possibility of also using futures or forward contracts.
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