WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05), joined by Congressman John Larson (CT-01), Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-02), Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03), and Congressman Jim Himes (CT-04), introduced the Save Our Small (SOS) Farms Act of 2024. This legislation improves the farm safety net and expands federal crop insurance by allowing small farms to better access crop insurance policies often limited to large, commercial farms to protect their businesses.

Farms lacking crop insurance are forced to rely on disaster relief assistance and incur massive losses during extreme weather or other events that damage their crops. These losses disproportionately impact small farms that, under current policies, struggle to qualify for crop insurance. In 2023, farms throughout Connecticut and the region were impacted by unprecedented flooding resulting in devastating crop losses. Limitations of current farm safety net programs and barriers to crop insurance eligibility requirements left many Connecticut farms unable to receive comprehensive federal assistance. The SOS Farms Act would expand the number of farms eligible to purchase crop insurance, lower the cost of coverage for small farmers, and direct the USDA to develop more responsive coverage options for farmers during extreme weather.

According to the nationwide 2022 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Census of Agriculture, only 5% of Connecticut farms are enrolled in crop insurance, compared to 19% of farms nationally.

“As extreme weather events in Connecticut become more frequent, our farmers must be protected. One catastrophic event could leave these small, generational farms completely devastated and risk closing,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “The SOS Farms Act will make crop insurance policies more accessible and streamline federal aid to small farmers impacted by extreme weather. In the Fifth District, small farms feed our communities and drive our economy. Improving farm safety net programs is crucial to ensuring small farms continue to thrive.”

"After the Connecticut River Valley was decimated by severe flooding last summer, many small farms in our region lost hundreds of acres of crops,” said Rep. Larson. “The entire Connecticut delegation introduced the Save our Small Farms Act to reform our nation’s crop insurance programs so they are more affordable and reliable for small farms in the event of a disaster. This legislation will take critical steps to improve programs like the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) and the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program (WFRP) so more farmers can enroll and be accurately insured based on the crops they plant and produce. We are fighting to make sure our farmers can get the support they need and deserve from their government, and not be left behind when disaster hits.”

"Earlier this year, I met with farmers from across eastern Connecticut alongside Commissioner Brian Hurlburt who shared the importance of crop insurance to their livelihoods and operations, especially after facing damaging weather events over the past several years. Unfortunately, federal farm safety net programs are often burdensome or completely inaccessible to our farmers. My friends and colleagues from Connecticut are teaming up to provide small farmers with the safety net they need to access federal crop insurance assistance programs. I am hopeful this bill receives bipartisan attention from leadership in both the House and Senate as the Congress works to craft the 2024 Farm Bill,” said Congressman Courtney.

"According to the USDA, Connecticut lost about 460 farms between 2017 and 2022. That is why I am proud to join Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and my colleagues in the Connecticut delegation in introducing legislation to strengthen our agricultural safety net,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “Small sized and family farms are the heart of many of our communities, creating jobs and keeping our grocery shelves stocked. Farmers need stability when disaster strikes, and the peace of mind to know they can weather the various crises they may face. The Save Our Small Farms Act would grant them that – strengthening the options available to farmers through federal crop insurance when disaster hits.”

"Connecticut’s farmers are some of our most resilient workers, but extreme weather is growing more common, and a year’s worth of crops can be devastated by a single flood or hurricane. The Save Our Small Farms Act will support producers by making insurance coverage more affordable and easier to purchase. I am proud to join with my colleagues to introduce this important legislation and offer a critical lifeline to many across Connecticut,” said Congressman Himes.

Specifically, the SOS Farms Act:

1. Creates a streamlined application process to the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP), which offers farmers the opportunity to purchase coverage for losses due to natural disasters in areas where crop insurance is unavailable.

  • Producers may not be able to find an insurance policy that covers any or all of their crops, or insurance premiums may be prohibitively expensive.
  • Paperwork requirements, premiums, and service fees have often kept small farms from accessing NAP coverage.

2. Directs the Farm Service Agency to create an on-ramp from NAP coverage to a true insurance policy under the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program (WFRP), the most comprehensive crop insurance program for small and mid-sized farms.

3. Expands WFRP to allow smaller farms to better access crop insurance policies by:

  • Reducing paperwork requirements for applicants.
  • Allowing policies for farms that use crop-rotation.
  • Authorizing the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to study WFRP participation by small farms that sell to local or regional markets.
  • Expanding the network of insurance agents selling crop insurance policies to small farms through increased compensation
4. Directs USDA to develop an index-based insurance policy that is responsive to crop and income losses due to extreme weather events.
  • A weather index-based insurance policy uses extreme weather events as a proxy for agricultural income losses.
  • This approach reduces paperwork while making the policy more responsive to losses from adverse weather conditions.
  • Insurance would also be based on a farm’s income instead of the price of its crops, better aligning payouts with income losses associated with crop losses.
  • Since payouts are automatically triggered by a weather event, producers would not have to fill out paperwork or wait months to receive support following a natural disaster.

To date, 32 industry organizations have endorsed the SOS Farms Act, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

“The SOS Farms Act represents a true and needed commitment to build a farm safety net that supports all farmers, not only the biggest,” said Billy Hackett, Policy Specialist at the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. “This bill streamlines burdensome requirements and creates responsive options for small farmers who sell fresh fruits and vegetables into local and regional markets to access coverage against droughts, floods, and hurricanes, which are only becoming more frequent and severe.” 

In addition to the Connecticut House Delegation, the SOS Farms Act is co-sponsored by Congressman Richard Neal (MA-01), Congressman Jim McGovern (MA-02), Congresswoman Alma Adams (NC-12), and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).

A one-pager of the SOS Farms Act can be found here, and the full bill text can be found here.