On Wednesday, September 28, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) hosted a webinar about a new federally-subsidized insurance program called Adjusted Gross Revenue Lite (AGR-Lite). According to the presentations, AGR-Lite can provide either revenue insurance, which can protect farmers from declines in crop prices or yields, or multi-peril insurance, which can protect against low yields as well as various kinds of damage to farmers’ crops. AGR-Lite insures the entire product of the farm, either livestock or crop; this feature is unique to this insurance plan. In areas without a crop insurance program, AGR-Lite can provide insurance for farmers who would not otherwise be able to insure their crops. Moreover, because most crop insurance plans have a limited price selection, crops are insured at conventional crop values, which are lower than those for organic crops. AGR-Lite, however, is an exception and will insure organic crops at higher values. This is an advantage for organic farmers.
There are limitations on who can use AGR-Lite. First of all, it is not available everywhere: Certain states and counties do not have it. It is not for beginning farmers, since it requires several years of tax records. In addition, if your adjusted gross revenue is expected to be over $2,000,000 then you cannot qualify for AGR-Lite, but are instead eligible for the Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) program.
If AGR-Lite is such a good insurance plan to have, then why aren’t more farmers using it? One reason is that buying the product is complicated and time-consuming. Another reason is that crop diversity can be a way of protecting against yield loss caused by pests and diseases; relying on crop diversity alone can be dangerous, however, because crops can still suffer from natural disasters. Next, the premium may be too high for loss coverage: Lack of information about risks associated with production has resulted in a 5 percent surcharge on insurance premiums. Finally, it might be hard for farms using a CSA to get AGR-Lite because of how hard it is to break down the lump-sum paid at the beginning of the season into all the different crops purchased through the CSA.
Many organic farmers still don’t know about AGR-Lite. If you visit the AGR Lite Wizard website and sign up for an account, you will be able to work through different financial scenarios and find out whether AGR-Lite is the right choice for your farm.