We’ve recently recognized a historic occasion―President Biden signed legislation declaring Juneteenth a federal holiday.

Juneteenth, a portmanteau of June and 19th, celebrates June 19, 1865, when soldiers of the Union Army brought the news of freedom to enslaved African Americans in Texas. I hope you enjoyed the time off, and reflected on the continued dialogue around race, equality, and the strength of our nation’s diversity.

Speaking of continued dialogue, Secretary Vilsack sent out an important message asking for public input on the Department’s efforts to advance racial justice and equity. USDA will use this information to identify opportunities to address inequities and increase participation in programs, services, committees, and decision-making processes. The Notice will be available online for public input until July 15, 2021, through the Federal Register. Please pass the word.

This week Congress passed a bill, signed into law by the President, making June 19th, known as Juneteenth, a federal holiday

In recent messages, I’ve been happy to highlight the great work RMA does working with partners in the private sector, safeguarding the integrity of Federal crop insurance, and growing the program.

Another vital task RMA has is developing insurance policies that are actuarially sound. With an annual volume of more than $10 billion, premium rates have a significant impact on farmers and on taxpayers who subsidize a portion of the farmer’s premium. If premium rates are too low, it degrades the performance of the program. If rates are too high, it harms producers and their willingness to participate in crop insurance. Therefore, we must get it right.

We’ve been fortunate for many years to have a trailblazer in research who has improved our knowledge about the factors that affect a farmer’s risk and determining the best way to account for that in their premium rates.

Chief Actuary, Tom Worth, has been instrumental in advancing the program since he first arrived at RMA in 2002. Tom has been a key player on Farm Bill technical assistance and implementation, negotiations with insurance providers, the President’s budget process, and ensuring actuarial soundness of the program; and with a twenty-year loss ratio of 0.85, it serves as a testament to his work!

Tom is regarded as an expert to those in congress, USDA, private industry, and OMB. Governments around the world seek his input on how to develop and improve their crop insurance programs. In fact, he’s made numerous trips to Brazil, China, and India, serving as an “ambassador” of sorts for American crop insurance.

His more recent contributions during the last several years include developing a dairy revenue policy that resulted in 30 percent of American milk production being federally insured, developing a hurricane policy in record time to relieve farmers recovering from disaster, and success in advancing RMA on climate smart agriculture.

He just began a new job at with USDA’s Economic Research Service. He had such an amazing impact on our organization and the industry as a whole. I recently had the chance to talk to him about his experiences.

Richard: I’ve known you for many years at RMA but tell me a little about your earlier life.
Tom: I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska. I went to Grinnell College in Iowa where I earned a B.A. in Economics. After graduating, I studied and traveled in Europe for a year. Then I went to the University of Wisconsin – Madison where I earned a Ph.D. in Economics. When I finished my doctorate, I focused finding a job in the D.C. area, where my wife had been accepted to a medical residency program. I applied to several Federal agencies and universities in the region. I ended up at the Economic Research Service at USDA. It was great opportunity to focus on the topic I was interested in and have access to – and learn from – a large group of experienced researchers. It’s been a rewarding journey and today my wife and I have two children in college.

Richard: You have been with RMA for quite some time. Looking back, what has been your favorite aspect of working here?
Tom: It means a lot to me to be part of a program that has a direct, significant, and positive impact on farmers. I also enjoy the challenge of finding ways to communicate to farmers and other stakeholders how premium rates are determined, so they understand how much is being charged and why, hopefully building confidence in the crop insurance program. I also enjoy the opportunity to research and explore different aspects of agricultural risk, finding ways to improve how premium rates are determined. My position also allowed me to have a lot of interaction with our private sector partners who service and deliver the crop insurance program. I enjoyed getting to know and working with the crop insurance companies and agents.

Tom Worth, RMA Chief Actuary, accepted a position with USDA’s Economic Research Service and leaves RMA after nearly 20 years of service

Richard: You mentioned our sister agency earlier - the Economic Research Service, or ERS. You’re journey with USDA is taking you full circle now, isn’t it?
Tom: Yes, I just accepted a new opportunity with ERS. I will be the Director of the Resource and Rural Economics Division at ERS, managing research programs on conservation and environment; agricultural production, technologies, and research and development; dynamics of farming; and rural development and well-being of farm and rural households.

Richard: We wish you well in your new endeavor. Any thoughts you would like to share as you begin a new professional chapter?
Tom: My favorite aspect of RMA has been the people, they are amazing! RMA is a relatively small agency, which means that everyone has a work together and pitch in on a variety of issues. Everyone is willing to help each other out. I will very much miss the people I have worked with over the last 19 years, but I am also looking forward to taking on new challenges at ERS.

We wish Tom and his family the absolute best and we’re incredibly grateful for everything he has done for RMA and Federal crop insurance. Fortunately, Tom is not leaving USDA and will go on to continue the mission of serving American agriculture at ERS.

On behalf of RMA: Thank you, Tom, for twenty years of dedicated service and a legacy of excellence!

– Richard