USDA Updates Crop Insurance Flexibility

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced updates to crop insurance to respond to the needs of agriculture producers.

“We are responsive to the needs of producers, and we are updating several key policies to encourage the use of cover crops and other conservation practices,” RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger said in a media release. “We want to provide producers tools to help mitigate and adapt to climate change as well as ensure crop insurance works well for a wide variety of producers, including organic producers.”

Haying, Grazing and Chopping Cover Crops

The RMA is making permanent a provision that allows producers to hay, graze or chop cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage at any time and still receive 100% of the prevented planting payment. Previously, cover crops could only be hayed, grazed or chopped after Nov. 1 to receive 100% of the prevented planting payment, but the RMA announced the new “any time” provision in July of 2021.

The RMA provided that flexibility as part of a broader effort to encourage producers to use cover crops, an important conservation and good farming practice. According to the USDA, cover crops support healthy soils and sustainability efforts and are proven to reduce erosion, improve water quality and increase the health and productivity of the soil.

“1 in 4” Requirement Flexibilities

Additionally, the RMA is increasing “1 in 4” requirement flexibilities. For the 2020 crop year, RMA implemented a policy stating that land must meet the “1 in 4” requirement to be eligible for preventing planting coverage. The “1 in 4” requirement means land must be planted, insured and harvested in at least one of the four most recent crop years. Now, the RMA is adding additional flexibilities allowed in order to meet the “1 in 4” requirement:

  • The annual regrowth for an insured perennial crop, such as alfalfa, red clover, or mint, to be considered planted.
  • Allow a crop covered by the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) to meet the insurability requirement.
  • If crop insurance or NAP coverage was not available, allow the producer to prove the acreage was planted and harvested using good farming practices in at least two consecutive years out of the four previous years to meet the insurability requirement.

Expanded Options for Organic Producers

The RMA also built on efforts to expand and improve current options for organic producers, recently offering the new Micro Farm Policy and making improvements to Whole-Farm Revenue Protection:

  • Increasing expansion limits for organic producers to the higher of $500,000 or 35%. Previously, small and medium size organic operations were held to the same 35% limit to expansion as conventional practice producers.
  • Increasing the limit of insurance for aquaculture producers to $8.5 million. Previously aquaculture producers were held to a $2 million cap on expected revenue, this change allows more aquaculture producers to participate in the program.
  • Allowing a producer to report acreage as certified organic, or as acreage in transition to organic, when the producer has requested an organic certification by the acreage reporting date. This allows organic producers more flexibility when reporting certified acreage.
  • Providing flexibility to report a partial yield history for producers lacking records by inserting zero yields for missing years. Previously, missing a year of records would cause the commodity’s expected value to be zero, meaning past revenue from the commodity would contribute nothing to the insurance guarantee.

Other Changes

The RMA made changes to other insurance provisions, including the improvement of crop insurance for hemp.

  • RMA is providing an option for producers to delay measurement of farm-stored production for 180-days through the Special Provisions, similar to flexibilities already available to grain crop producers.
  • RMA added earlage and snaplage as an acceptable method of harvest for coarse grains. During the 2020 Derecho, many producers salvaged their damaged corn crop by harvesting as earlage or snaplage instead of grain or silage.
  • RMA revised the policy to add flexibility to the insurability requirements for hemp under contract. Producers are no longer required to deliver hemp without economic value for insurability. Read more about the hemp policy on the USDA website.

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