John Tarleton’s dream to create an institution of higher education for students of modest means today is reality. Tarleton State University offers an affordable, quality education and boasts graduates whose accomplishments would make its founder proud.

This monthly column, by an anonymous university author, looks at the school’s progress, issues of our time, achievements and challenges through the eyes of John Tarleton — a dreamer’s point of view.

Our great nation relies on the farmers and ranchers who feed us. Truth is that American farmers and ranchers also put food on the table for millions of people around the globe.

It’s a big job and a heavy task.          

To succeed, they need a safety net to protect against weather and catastrophic natural disasters. Frost. Drought. Freeze. Disease. Floods. Hail. The list is long.

Good for all of us that the Federal Crop Insurance Program provides such a safety net and that Tarleton State University understands how critical it is for farmers and ranchers in Texas and across the country who battle unpredictable forces beyond their control.

A healthy farm economy undergirds a healthy America, and access to affordable crop insurance enables American farmers to provide affordable food.

The university’s Center for Agribusiness Excellence (CAE) on Tarleton’s Stephenville campus works to protect the Federal Crop Insurance Program by fighting fraud, waste and abuse.

            Launched in 2001, CAE uses innovative analytics and computer data mining to identify anomalies with claims and prevent program abuse. CAE contracts with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency.

            CAE came about as a result the Agriculture Risk Protection Act of 2000, which made major revisions to the crop insurance program and provided emergency assistance to farmers and ranchers.

            U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, a Tarleton graduate who served on the House Agriculture Committee, helped identify Tarleton as an excellent fit for the center, thanks in large part to the university’s strong tradition of excellence in agricultural education. A longtime cotton farmer from Stamford, near Abilene, Stenholm knows firsthand the importance of crop insurance.

            Today, a staff of roughly 30 geospatial analysts, computer scientists, database administrators, statisticians and theoretical mathematicians pinpoint efficiencies and inefficiencies in crop insurance. Through data mining they evaluate crop production, weather and soil, among multiple other areas.

Consider these facts. In 2017 alone, 1.1 million policies were sold protecting 311 million acres, with an insured value of $106 billion.

            That’s huge.

            CAE identifies claims that require further study and allows the data to speak for itself. It doesn’t assign or prove guilt.

            The return for the federal government is clear. An annual cost avoidance analysis indicates that CAE saves taxpayers between $50 million and $100 million every year.

            And CAE’s work extends beyond reducing fraud.

CAE is working toward creating a methodology to validate claims in real time so farmers and ranchers can receive insurance payments as quickly as possible, allowing them to run their operations effectively with little interruption.

            In today’s fast-paced economy, that’s paramount to their ongoing success.

We all depend on the goods and products of our farmers and ranchers, and they depend on federal crop insurance as an indispensable business tool.

            To put it simply without minimizing its importance, federal crop insurance is a cornerstone of U.S. farming policy.

            Through data mining and analytics, the Center for Agribusiness Excellence at Tarleton ensures it will remain so for generations to come.

            That helps put food on the table.