THE Risk Management Agency (RMA) released new rules for the prevented planting insurance program for the 2014 crop year — a welcome move to a delegation of North Dakota members of Congress who have been calling for clarification of the rules as well as making them more workable for producers.
The modification applies to the Prairie Pothole National Priority Area, which is classified as regions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, for the 2014 crop and succeeding crop years.
Specifically, the new guidelines eliminate the "normal weather" provision to allow a producer who plants and harvests a crop for one out of four years, regardless of the weather situation, to be eligible for prevented planting.
The previous rules defined "normal weather conditions" as a matter of subjective interpretation, leaving growers with uncertainty about how they could use those years to qualify for prevented planting insurance.
However, RMA explained that once the producer is unable to plant and harvest certain acreage in at least one of the four most recent crop years, the producer will need to demonstrate that the land is farmable by planting and harvesting (or incurring an insurable loss other than for excess moisture) two years in a row.
The change also removes a provision that disqualifies land for prevented planting if marsh vegetation, such as a single cattail, is found on it.
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) said he still has concerns about the effect on producers for the current growing season.
"Making this change apply retroactively would have been a better decision," Cramer explained.
RMA developed the change in response to recommendations by crop insurance companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General and producers in the Prairie Pothole regions.
In May, Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.) hosted RMA administrator Brandon Willis at roundtable meetings in Fargo, N.D., and Bismarck, N.D., with leaders of a broad range of North Dakota agricultural groups to provide an update and press for clarification of the prevented planting rules.
Hoeven also successfully included an amendment in the Senate agricultural appropriations bill requiring RMA to simplify the provisions to make them more predictable to producers and reflective of local conditions.
In addition, in the spring, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) had requested clarification from RMA regarding an across-the-board application of the normal weather clause in North Dakota, which could have resulted in coverage being denied to producers that should qualify.
In response to those concerns, RMA assured Heitkamp that prevented planting claims would be considered on a case-by-case basis by approved insurance providers.
"Farmers deserve to know they can rely on the insurance coverage they purchased," Heitkamp noted. "The policies must be clear with regard to eligibility and coverage. Removing the normal weather clause is a positive step for the next season, and I am pleased that USDA heeded our concerns."