At New England Farmers Union’s annual convention December 13, members voted in new board member Arthur Carroll of Limerick, ME. Carroll is the founder of Arthur Carroll Crop Insurance Agency. We spoke to Carroll about his work and what he sees as the future of risk management.
As weather patterns become more erratic and farmers’ margins grow slimmer, many New England producers are seeing crop insurance as a good bet. Carroll says he sees that as a good thing for the stability of the region’s agriculture.
Pointing to a worst-case scenario, he said, “You get a loss and you’re out of business.” But some farmers are seeing a different path. “If you become aware that crop insurance can limit that loss, you won’t dig a hole that takes years and years to get out of,” he said. “It’s a good management tool.”
Carroll began working for the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation in 1981. In 1984, he left to form his own agency in Maine, which makes it 30 years he’s been selling crop insurance in New England. The agency insures around 15 crops to farms that vary in size from an acre of cranberries in Massachusetts to 1,000 acres of potatoes in northern Maine.
The policies Carroll sells are developed by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, and sold by private carriers, such as QBE Farmers Union Insurance. Agents like Carroll are on the front lines, selling the policies to farmers and servicing those policies. The products cover unavoidable losses that are beyond human control: weather, insects, plant diseases. He finds weather-related claims come in spurts, like when a hail storm damages a region’s apples, or when 6 inches of rain falls in one week and potato growers can’t harvest their crop.
Carroll sees his agency as a leader in crop insurance, in part because crop insurance is all they do. While other agencies may sell crop insurance, “Hopefully we do a better job of it than those who just write a few policies,” he said.
He sees membership in New England Farmers Union as a relationship that benefits both him and the producers he serves. “Farmers Union has a link to a lot of farmers, and allows them to stay informed about changes in insurance programs.” And Farmers Union’s relationship to National Farmers Union (NFU) is crucial to the family farmers of the region. “NFU is very involved in Washington, D.C. They have links to government agencies, to members of Congress. They can lobby and promote ways to improve crop insurance.”
These programs evolve constantly, Carroll said, but over the 30 years he’s been involved with crop insurance, he has seen risk management products improving. “The bottom line is,” he said, “farmers need to keep themselves informed.”
Farmers who purchase a policy from Arthur Carroll Insurance Agency receive a complimentary year’s membership to New England Farmers Union. To learn more, click here.