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Published March 11, 2013, 01:21 PM

Busy time for crop insurers

March 15 is a key crop insurance deadline.

By: Jonathan Knutson, Agweek

This is crunch time for area crop insurance agents.

March 15 is the deadline for purchasing or modifying crop insurance for most spring-planted crops. To meet the deadline, crop insurance agents will be working long days and nights.

“It gets pretty chaotic,” says Dan Weber, a Casselton, N.D., insurance agent.

Crop insurance agents, working with their clients who farm, have a narrow window in which to make important decisions about insuring 2013 crops.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency released the prices at which area farmers can insure most of their 2013 crops under federally subsidized revenue and yield production policies.

The crop insurance prices are based on market prices in February. Typically, farmers wait until the prices are announced before they begin making their final decisions on 2013 crop insurance.

Here are the 2013 prices in the Upper Midwest for the region’s three major crops.

•Corn — $5.65 per bushel, down from $5.68 per bushel a year ago. The record price was $6.01 per bushel in 2011, says Andy Swenson, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm management specialist.

Corn prices dipped in the second half of February this year, which brought down the 2013 crop insurance price for corn, Weber says.

•Wheat — $8.44 per bushel, up from $7.84 per bushel a year ago. The record price was $11.11 per bushel in 2008, Swenson says.

•Soybeans — $12.87 per bushel, up from $12.55 per bushel a year ago. The record price was $13.49 in 2011, Swenson says.

The 2013 prices for corn, wheat and soybeans are all the third-highest on record, Swenson says.

The prices are high enough to provide a relatively strong safety net for producers, although rising expenses have weakened the safety net somewhat, he says.

Sooner is better

Weber says he understands why farmers wait as long as possible to finalize their crop insurance decisions.

Nonetheless, the first two weeks of March are hectic for crop insurance agents, says Steve Becher, executive director of the Professional Insurance Agents of North Dakota.

Agents “are burning the candle at both ends. But there are only so many hours in the day,” he says.

Becher advises ag producers to begin working with their agents as soon as possible.

Crop insurance can be complex, but agents generally have a good understanding of what’s involved, Swenson says.

“You should hunker down with your agent,” Swenson advises farmers.

In general, crop insurance is a valuable risk management tool that farmers should consider using, he says.

At one time, ag producers generally insured 65 percent of their crop. Their rate has risen to 70 to 75 percent, as farmers increasingly recognize that crop insurance helps them manage risk, Swenson says.

Websites of interest

Crop insurance prices for 2013 can be found on RMA the website:

www3.rma.usda.gov/apps/pricediscoveryweb/CropsInDiscovery.aspx.

The University of Illinois FarmDoc website is a good source of information on crop insurance products, according to Kent Thiesse, farm manage- ment analyst and vice president of MinnStar Bank in Lake Crystal, Minn.

More information: www.farmdoc.illinois.edu/cropins/index.asp.

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