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Published August 26, 2013, 10:35 AM

RMA removes normal weather provision from prevented plant policy

The agency eliminated the “normal weather” provision, meaning farmers can collect prevented plant insurance, as long as they’ve planted in one of four previous years, regardless of weather situation in the year they planted. The provision has been a sticking point for some farmers trying to collect prevented plant insurance for their 2013 crops, as RMA had classified 2012 as an “abnormally dry” year, thereby disqualifying it for inclusion in the one-in-four rule.

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek

The federal Risk Management Agency on Aug. 26 clarified its one-in-four rule involving the approval of acres for prevented plant crop insurance coverage. The agency eliminated the “normal weather” provision, meaning farmers can collect prevented plant insurance, as long as they’ve planted in one of four previous years, regardless of weather situation in the year they planted.

The provision has been a sticking point for some farmers trying to collect prevented plant insurance for their 2013 crops, as RMA had classified 2012 as an “abnormally dry” year, thereby disqualifying it for inclusion in the one-in-four rule.

The agency also announced Aug. 26 that if a crop is ineligible because of the one-in-four rule, it must be planted and harvested for two years in a row for a future crop to get back into the program. In addition, the agency will remove a provision that disqualified land for prevented plant insurance if marsh vegetation, such as a single cattail, was found on it.

The changes are especially significant for prairie pothole states such as North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa for 2014 and succeeding years.

“The goal is to make federal crop insurance policy more objective and to provide clarity for the producers facing prevented planting losses,” RMA Administrator Brandon Willis said. Willis will discuss the matter at roundtable sessions with U.S. Sens. John Hoeven, R-N.D., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., Aug. 27.

Willis on Monday told Agweek the ruling improves program integrity and includes some clear guidance for implementing it, and should make farmers and insurance companies happy.

Abnormally dry

The new provision requires that in order for acreage to be eligible for payments, it “must have been planted and harvested (or incurred an insurable loss other than for excess moisture) in one out of the last four years, regardless of whether one of those years was abnormally dry.

“However, once the producer is unable to plant and harvest on certain acreage in one of the four most recent crop years, the producer will need to demonstrate the land is farmable by planting and harvesting (or incurring an insurable loss other than for excess moisture) two years in a row,” the RMA says.

The new special provision “creates a more objective means for determining acreage eligible for prevented planting than the current rule,” Willis said. It comes in advance of a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General, which is expected to be released in the next several weeks, and is expected to eliminate ambiguities, Willis said.

Willis said the statement was developed in response to recommendations by crop insurance companies, the USDA Office of Inspector General, and producers in the Prairie Pothole regions.

Dan Wogsland, executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, said his organization is “extremely pleased that RMA backed off of the ‘abnormally dry’ provision and is going with the one-in-four” rule, and “very, very pleased” with the provision on aquatic vegetation.” He said his organization is evaluating the two-consecutive-years rule for re-eligibility and how that will affect farmers.

“We have to thank Sen. Hoeven — the entire North Dakota congressional delegation — for being right on top of this situation,” Wogsland said.

In late July, the federal Farm Service Agency in a preliminary estimate said 4.4 million acres were in prevented-plant status in the state, a figure that had doubled from estimates a month earlier. The state’s record for prevented-plant acreage was 5.6 million of the state’s 22 million farm and ranch acres in 2011.

In western South Dakota and Montana, farmers have winter wheat winter kill insurance options, and insure it when it’s planted by certain dates. They have the option of getting paid in the spring if doesn’t establish a stand, and planting a separate crop in its place, or to go in and plant areas that had died out.

Farmers should contact their crop insurance agents for details, Willis said.

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