As farmers get ready for spring planting, they're thinking about ways to protect their crops.
After last year's drought, federal crop insurance became even more important.
That record economic impact totals just shy of $16 billion nationwide. Farmers want lessons from the drought to drive that point home to Washington lawmakers.
As drought delivers a one-two punch to many area farms, it's the worst corn crop in 25 years for a Henry County field. That makes federal crop insurance even more important.
"It's very important," said Geneseo farmer Wayne Anderson. "It gives you the opportunity to sleep at night."
That's why the Illinois Farm Bureau hosted a special session on Tuesday in Geneseo.
Anderson went back to class after his corn harvest dropped some 40% in 2012. Crop insurance means surviving a tough year.
"You have a very big risk out there," he continued. "It gives you an opportunity to cover those risks."
In 2012, crop insurance covered about 80% of Illinois corn. It became an important safety net. This is protection that actually saved farms.
"Without crop insurance, I'm not sure how farmers would have survived the 2012 drought," said Doug Yoder, Illinois Farm Bureau. "Some, obviously, would have survived. But it really would have been devastating to their net worth and their operations."
The Illinois Farm Bureau is monitoring the federal sequester and watching for any impact on insurance and the extended Farm Bill.
Farmers must also fight misconceptions about the insurance. It's certainly not a free program or a handout. Last year, Illinois farmers paid $333 million in premiums.
With parched fields a thing of the past, farmers are thinking about spring planting. Crop insurance offers protection from extreme weather. That's enough for some local growers.
"You just have to have it these days to minimize risk," said Fulton farmer Jeff Merema. "One bad year can mean if you're farming or not."