Producers will have additional crop insurance flexibilities at their disposal next year after a handful of changes from the Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency.

RMA is changing haying and grazing requirements for cover crops, making permanent a modification offered to producers in July. The agency is also making changes to the so-called “1 in 4” requirement for crop insurance to add additional practices that will qualify for a producer's land use requirement.

RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger said the changes were being made “to encourage the use of cover crops and other conservation practices.”

“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,” she said.

RMA is eliminating the Nov. 1 deadline for when producers can hay, graze, or chop cover crops for livestock feed and still receive a full prevented planting indemnity. Under the old rule, prevented planting payments would be reduced by 65% on that acreage.

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“While results vary by region and soil type, cover crops are proven to reduce erosion, improve water quality and increase the health and productivity of the soil while building resilience to climate change,” RMA said in a press release. Premium benefits are also available for producers who plant cover crops through the Pandemic Cover Crop Program.

RMA also will allow for new efforts to be considered in compliance with a requirement calling for land to be planted, insured and harvested in one of the previous four years to allow it to qualify for prevented planting payments. Those changes include allowing for annual crops like alfalfa as well as crops covered by the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program to count toward “1 in 4” requirements.

RMA also announced several other crop insurance changes including:

  • Making RMA’s organic definitions consistent with USDA’s National Organic Program;
  • Allowing coarse grain producers to delay measurement of farm-stored production for 180 days;
  • Adding earlage and snaplage as an acceptable harvest method for coarse grains.

“By recognizing earlage and snaplage, we are providing confidence to producers that their crop is covered when a disaster changes their planned harvest method or if they choose to harvest in a manner other than reported on their acreage report,” Bunger said.

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(Reporting by Stephanie Kelly and Jarrett Renshaw Editing by Edmund Blair and Mark Potter)