RMA updates prevented planted guidelines

Producers in Prairie Pothole region will have to plant crop one out of four years to be eligible for prevented plant classification.

The Risk Management Agency (RMA) released news rules for the prevented planting insurance program for the 2014 crop year, a welcome change to a delegation of North Dakota members of Congress who have been calling for clarification on the rules as well as make it 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 one out of four years, regardless of the weather situation, to be eligible for prevented plant. The previous rules definition of “normal weather conditions” was a matter of subjective interpretation, leaving growers uncertain about how they could use those years to qualify for prevented plant insurance.

However, RMA explained once the producer is unable to plant and harvest on certain acreage in at least 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 change also removes a provision disqualifying land for prevented planting if marsh vegetation, such as a single cattail, is found on it.

The change was developed by RMA in response to recommendations made by crop insurance companies, the USDA Office of Inspector General, and producers in the Prairie Pothole regions.

In May, Sen. John Hoeven, R., N.D., hosted RMA Administrator Brandon Willis in Fargo, N.D., and Bismarck, N.D., at roundtable meetings held with a broad range of North Dakota agriculture group leaders to provide an update and press for a clarification of the prevented plant rules. Hoeven also successfully included an amendment in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill requiring the agency to simplify the provisions to make them more predictable to producers and reflective of local conditions.

Hoeven said another roundtable discussion is scheduled for Aug. 27 to ensure the rules are clear and that they do, in fact, work for farmers and ranchers.

“Farmers deserve to know they can rely on the insurance coverage they purchased. The policies must be clear with regard to eligibility and coverage,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D., N.D., a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “Removing the normal weather clause is a positive step for the next season, and I am pleased that USDA heeded our concerns.”

In the spring, Heitkamp 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 these concerns, RMA assured Heitkamp that prevented plant claims would be considered on a case-by-case basis by approved insurance providers. Additionally, to urge a change in prevented plant policy, Heitkamp brought together North Dakota producers and the USDA.

In July, Heitkamp hosted Michael Scuse, the No. 2 official at USDA, in Bismarck to hear directly from North Dakota farmers. Heitkamp expressed her major concerns with the ambiguity surrounding prevented plant policies. She also met with Willis, who Heitkamp will be with in North Dakota this week, to push the agency to take action.

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," said Cramer. "I will make myself and my staff available to assist any producer who encounters difficulty counting 2012 toward the 1 in 4 rule.”


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