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Follow the steps for prevented planting claims and be aware of cover crop changes

Planting progress across the U.S. has been slow, raising the potential that many farmers will use the prevented planting provisions of their crop insurance.

Cover crop
Cover crops on prevented planting acreage now can be grazed, hayed or chopped at any time in the growing season, a change from the previous Nov. 1 requirement. This thriving field of cover crops near Woodworth, North Dakota, was photographed in September 2013, near Woodworth, North Dakota.
Contributed / John Brose
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Planting progress across the U.S. has been slow, raising the potential that many farmers will use the prevented planting provisions of their crop insurance.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency, prevented planting provisions provide coverage when extreme weather conditions prevent expected plantings by the final planting date for full insurance coverage or during the late planting period, when coverage is reduced. To qualify for prevented planting coverage, acreage must have been planted, insured and harvested in at least one of the four most recent crop years.

The highest number of prevented planting occurred in 2019, when more than 19 million acres in the U.S. could not be planted due to excessive moisture or flooding, leading to more than $4 billion in crop insurance claims, according to RMA.

Kristen Knudtson, program director for the North Dakota state office of Farm Service Agency, said farmers should work with their crop insurance agents when they are unable to plant their intended crops. However, they also need to file their prevented planting acreage with FSA within 15 calendar days of the final planting date for the intended crop. They'll need to indicate where their prevented planting acreage is on their FSA acreage maps, and they have to fill out FSA form CCC-576 for each crop they are not able to plant.

CCC-576, Knudtson explained, will require information about the disaster that prevented farmers from planting, the acreage for each crop that couldn't be planted, as well as information about what they're going to do to maintain the fields. If farmers do not maintain the fields and keep them weed free, she explained, they can lose coverage under farm bill programs administered by FSA, like ARC/PLC.

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Using cover crops is one option for maintaining prevented planting ground, and the USDA announced in 2021 that it had permanently changed the way cover crops can be used on prevented planting ground.

Prior to the change, cover crops planted on prevented planting ground could not be hayed, grazed or chopped for forage until after Nov. 1. If the crops were used prior to Nov. 1, prevented planting payments were reduced by 65%. In many parts of the country, including northern areas, the quality of cover crops was greatly diminished by Nov. 1, making the forage of lower quality and less valuable for use in livestock feed.

In July 2021, USDA announced agricultural producers with crop insurance could hay, graze or chop cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage at any time and still receive 100% of the prevented planting payment. In December, USDA said the change was being made permanent .

A release from USDA explained that the change was "part of a broader effort to encourage producers to use cover crops, an important conservation and good farming practice. Cover crops are especially important on fields prevented from being planted because they cover ground that would otherwise be left bare, which helps reduce soil erosion, boost soil health and increase soil carbon sequestration."

Jenny Schlecht is the editor of Agweek and Sugarbeet Grower Magazine. She lives on a farm and ranch near Medina, North Dakota, with her husband and two daughters. You can reach her at jschlecht@agweek.com or 701-595-0425.
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