Breaking Down Barriers to Crop Insurance

We want to make Federal crop insurance available and accessible to all producers, especially those who have not traditionally had access. That’s why USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) is investing in risk management education and working with partners and ambassadors to help us expand our reach.

Crop insurance can seem complicated sometimes, and that’s why RMA wants to provide resources to help producers get more familiar.

Since 2021, RMA has invested $13 million in risk management education for underserved and small-scale producers and other producers interested in organic and climate-smart farm practices. This includes partnerships with a variety of entities, such as the Rural South Institute, which is helping producers in Alabama, Mississippi, and Georgia.

RMA also has ambassadors like Cindy Ayers-Elliott to help share why risk management tools are important to producers.

“Partnerships and pilot programs are integral to our outreach efforts in communities that have not had access to training about risk management options. They are part of USDA’s broader efforts to ensure equity and access to all of our programs,” said RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger. “As a farmer, I know first-hand that agriculture is a risky business. We need to work with growers and livestock producers to provide training and resources about risk management options and how to apply both to their farming businesses.”

RMA’s partnership funding cycle opens at the beginning of each year to organizations, nonprofits, and land grant universities.

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Veteran farmers learning about USDA risk management programs and extending the growing season by using hoop houses

Rural South Institute

Based in Alabama, the Rural South Institute (RSI) is a non-profit organization with a mission to provide high-quality education, outreach, technical assistance, and training in all aspects of agribusiness.

RSI’s partnership focused on minority producers in areas of persistent poverty in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Trainings covered a wide range of topics including risk management options and how to access them, along with hosting on-farm demonstrations of climate-smart agriculture and conservation practices, including cover crops.

“Our outreach and trainings have been a catalyst for tearing down some of the barriers and challenges faced by many farmers of color to equitably access crop insurance,” said RSI Executive Director, Duncan Chembezi, Ph.D. One of those challenges is limited access to broadband internet. “Our workshops provided the information and resources needed for our participants to apply for USDA programs.”

Creating an awareness of RMA policies for limited resource and minority producers, like Whole Farm Revenue Protection and Micro Farm, were key to the success of RSI’s outreach. “We’ve seen an increase in interest in these policies and an enthusiasm among farmers of color to discuss crop insurance and other government programs,” said Chembezi. “Our partnership with RMA made this possible.”

People sitting at tables listening to person speaking
Minority producers attend a crop insurance training led by Laurence Crane, Vice President, Program Outreach and Risk Management Education at National Crop Insurance Services

In addition to partnerships, like the one with RSI, RMA launched the Ambassador Pilot Program, an outreach effort developed to strengthen RMA’s engagement within underserved agricultural communities.

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Dr. Cindy Ayers – Elliott, Ph.D., farmer in Jackson, Mississippi, and Risk Management Agency Ambassador

Meet Cindy Ayers – Elliott, Ph.D., RMA’s First Ambassador

A native of Mississippi, Cindy Ayers-Elliott, Ph.D., is well known as the “go to” resource when it comes to teaching and mentoring community members interested in entering the world of agriculture. She was also recently named the first RMA Ambassador, a title she happily embraces.

As a successful farmer and former investment banker on Wall Street, Elliott is no stranger to hard work and long hours. She is knowledgeable and passionate about agriculture and looks for ways to share her passion with others. For many years, she used her own farm as a training ground to teach community members, especially single mothers and the socially or economically disadvantaged, about all aspects of farming.

In her role as Ambassador, a new RMA pilot program, Elliott will travel to conferences and outreach events, speaking about the importance of risk management. She is looking forward to the work ahead, “Teaching about risk management options for small and medium farmers and how they can gain financial security is so important to me.” Elliott’s outreach efforts will focus on the southeast, from Texas to Virginia and all points in-between.

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From Left to Right: Dr. Cindy Ayers-Elliott, Ph.D.; Marcia Bunger, RMA Administrator, LaGrand Elliott, RMA Navigator Project Specialist, University of Arkansas. Bunger recently announced Elliott as RMA’s Southeast Ambassador at the Agricultural Outlook Forum

Teaching farmers of different ethnicities, backgrounds, and experiences is paramount to Elliott. “Improving equity and access to risk management options is like planting seeds that will one day yield a harvest of strong farmers.”

The deadline to apply for 2024 partnership funding is March 4. Organizations interested in applying can learn more, access helpful resources, and view a list of previous partnerships by visiting RMA Outreach and Education or e-mailing

Producers interested in learning more about risk management options and how to purchase crop insurance are encouraged to reach out to a local crop insurance agent.


Kameka Gray is an Outreach Specialist at USDA's Risk Management Agency