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Iowa senators seek clairfication on federal crop insurance rules

WASHINGTON -- Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley today sought clarification regarding the basis and operation of rules governing the federal crop insurance pro-gram under circumstances in which adverse weather either delays or prevents t...

WASHINGTON -- Iowa Senators Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley today sought clarification regarding the basis and operation of rules governing the federal crop insurance pro-gram under circumstances in which adverse weather either delays or prevents the planting of crops. The Senators wrote the Risk Management Agency on behalf of Iowa farmers who face planting restrictions after the excessive rains and flooding last summer. Harkin and Grassley are both members of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Harkin chairs the Committee.

After last summer's disastrous weather, many Iowa farmers were faced with late planting and prevented planting rules of the federal crop insurance program. Some farmers found those rules confusing and difficult to understand, so Senator Grassley and I are seeking clarification on the rationale behind these rules, said Harkin. The federal crop insurance program has always been strongly supported and bought into by Iowa farmers, and we want to ensure that it functions as intended, as a crucial component of the safety net for American farmers.

Iowa farmers have been through the ringer over the last year. Prices dropped and input costs rose all while floods took out much of the crop. We want to make sure that the rules in place are consistent with the technology of today and are fair to all farmers, Grassley said. Understandably, the historic floods brought about questions on all sorts of federal programs, and crop insurance is no different. As an important component of the safety net for farmers, I expect the crop insurance program will continue to be fully utilized by Iowans.

The full text of the letter follows.

January 23, 2009

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Mr. William Murphy

Acting Administrator

Risk Management Agency

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Washington, D.C. 20250

Dear Mr. Murphy:

In the wake of last spring and summer's excessive rainfall and flooding, many Iowa farm-ers were forced to grapple with the late planting and prevented planting rules of the federal crop insurance program for the first time in many years, prompting a number of concerns about their transparency and fairness. As a result, a number of questions about these rules were raised over the last several months, which we would ask you to examine and provide a response to us.

Late planting

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What procedures and criteria are used to determine the final planting dates for various spring-planted crops?

What criteria are used to determine the regions to which a specific final planting date is applied?

Does RMA periodically review the agronomic appropriateness of those final planting dates? If so, how frequently, and what criteria are used to conduct that review?

Has the emergence of seed varieties for various crops with different maturation periods affected the setting of final planting dates, and if so, in what manner?

Please describe the procedure used to arrive at the requirement that farmers forfeit one percent of their crop insurance guarantee for each day after the final planting date that their crop is planted. What is the rationale for using the same one percent per day formula for all crops in all parts of the country?

Prevented Planting

We recognize that many aspects of the prevented planting rules were established by stat-ute, and thus are not subject to change through regulation. However, why is it necessary for farmers to file a separate 'Notice of Loss' in addition to reporting prevented planting on the required acreage report, if timely filed? Those requirements appear redundant to us.

We thank you for your assistance in sorting out these important questions on these aspects of the federal crop insurance program, and look forward to your responses.

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Sincerely,

Tom Harkin Charles E. Grassley

U.S. Senator U.S. Senator

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