When is it a SURE deal?

There are some major changes in crop insurance policies this year, and the deadline to buy crop insurance for spring-planted crops in Iowa is March 15. Contact your crop insurance agent as soon as possible if you haven’t already. You need to buy private crop insurance to be eligible for USDA’s Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program, or SURE, which is USDA’s crop disaster aid program.

SURE is administered through USDA’s Farm Service Agency. All insurable crops, with limited exceptions, are eligible for SURE, says Beth Grabau, public relations and outreach specialist with the FSA state office in Des Moines. The higher your level of crop insurance coverage, the higher your guarantee levels under SURE will be. In a way, SURE is like getting free, additional crop insurance coverage. 

The following answers to frequently asked questions are provided by Grabau and the program specialists she works with at FSA. If you have questions about SURE or any USDA farm program, contact your local FSA office. You can also get information at www.fsa.usda.gov.

Question: What do I have to do to make sure I’m eligible for SURE, in case a crop disaster would strike my 2011 crop?

Answer: SURE and some of FSA’s other disaster programs now require that all crops of economic significance be insured. In a nutshell, economic significance is whether or not a crop contributes at least a 5% value to your farming operation. If it does, then that crop must be insured.

Most, but not all of these crops, may not have private crop insurance available for the county. In these cases, the policies are available under the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, or NAP, which is administered by FSA. An example is alfalfa hay; private insurance for this crop may not be available in your county or not available because of the age of the crop. This is where NAP comes into play.

Producers should also keep in mind all acreage of a corn or a soybean crop is to be insured. Do you have some unrated or high-risk land that you didn’t pay a private crop insurance premium on due to cost or availability? This acreage may also need to be insured. It is important to check with your local FSA office if you are in a situation similar to this.

While SURE is one disaster program administered by FSA that requires all crops of economic significance to be insured, other disaster programs also have this requirement. So not insuring one crop could cause ineligibility on some livestock-related disaster programs as well. Remember too, some crops may have an insurance deadline different from your major crops.

Question: I keep hearing about USDA’s Secretarial Designated Counties for SURE payment, but how do I qualify?

Answer: A Secretarial Disaster Designation is requested of the U.S. secretary of agriculture by the governor of a state or by an Indian Tribal Council leader. It is the most widely used approach, but is also the most complicated.

It is a four-step process, but the damages and losses must be due to a natural disaster and be a minimum 30% production loss of at least one crop in the county.

If you are in a USDA Secretarial Disaster Designated County or a contiguous county, you must have suffered at least a 10% production loss on at least one crop to be eligible to sign up. If you are not in a designated county, your farm’s actual production must be less than 50% of its normal production.

For this program, FSA generally defines a farm as the entirety of all crops in all counties that a producer plants or intends to plant for harvest.

Question: Do I need to sign anything at my local FSA office this winter? Do I have to provide proof I’ve bought private crop insurance for 2011 prior to the March 15 deadline?

Answer: The determination as to whether or not a farm is eligible for the 2011 SURE program payment does not happen until after harvest and the end of the marketing year for the 2011 crop. That will not be until the fall of 2012. This is one of the reasons why farmers may get into trouble if they didn’t purchase the needed crop insurance before the closing date.

For the 2011 crop year, there is nothing to sign or papers to file or bring in. If there is a sign-up for a 2011 SURE, producers will be notified and most crop insurance data is provided to FSA through a download from USDA’s Risk Management Agency. Meaning, RMA transmits to FSA the data needed to calculate most SURE payments. Producers just need to sign a form and FSA does the rest. Sometimes additional information is needed in unique cases.

This article published in the February, 2011 edition of WALLACES FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.