Farmers are reminded that the sign-up deadline if you want to ensure eligibility for crop yield losses under USDA's new Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE) is September 16, 2008. That's the last day to pay the "buy-in" fee for crops, including grazing lands, that are not fully covered by crop insurance or the noninsured crop disaster assistance program (NAP).
"The new rules include all productive acres grazed or harvested, insurable or non-insurable," says Derryl McLaren, state executive director for USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Iowa.
September 16 final sign-up date for 2008
The 2008 Farm Bill requires farmers who wish to participate in USDA disaster programs to have crop insurance or NAP coverage for the land for which assistance is being requested, and for all farms in all counties in which they have an interest. Since the new farm bill was enacted after the insurance application periods had closed for crops, including grazing lands, farmers who did not have such coverage could not comply with this requirement in order to be eligible for the new disaster program.
The buy-in only effects eligibility for the 2008 disaster program, says McLaren. The payment of the appropriate buy-in fee does not afford the farmer actual crop insurance or NAP coverage. The 2008 eligibility buy-in fee for Supplemental Disaster Assistance is $100 per crop, but not more than $300 per farmer per county, or $900 total per farmer for all counties. Buy-in fees are not required for crops already covered by CAT or NAP. Producers meeting the definition of socially disadvantaged, beginning farmer or rancher, or limited resource farmer or rancher can have the eligibility fees waived.
Those who miss the Sept. 16 deadline will not be eligible for 2008 supplemental disaster assistance, he says. For more information, contact your local FSA county office to file the application for the waiver and pay the applicable fees.
Sept. 30 is deadline for 2009 crop insurance
Farmers also need to carefully consider their crop insurance options for 2009, as USDA's new disaster air program increases the need to evaluate your coverage.
"The fall deadline for 2009 sign-up for crop insurance is still several weeks away, but this is a year when farmers may have an additional crop insurance decision to make and shouldn't wait till the last minute to make it," says Rhonda Smith, vice president of insurance for Farm Credit Services of America (FCSAmerica). FSCAmerica serves farmers and ranchers in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. She notes that the 2009 sign-up deadline September 30.
"Most farmers insure their high-value crops, but until now, may have chosen to not cover their forage or grassland pasture," says Smith. "If they take this same approach in 2009, they may be doubly disappointed by a crop disaster and no disaster payment."
SURE boosts the need for crop insurance
"Changes to the 2008 Farm Bill have increased the importance of crop insurance," she says. "A new disaster aid program called SURE--Supplemental Revenue Assistance--will replace the ad hoc disaster programs used over the past several farm bills. The bottom line is in order for a farmer to benefit from SURE in 2009, he or she must carry at least the minimal coverage level on all insurable acres or sign up for the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program, or NAP, through the Farm Service Agency for uninsurable crops."
SURE is tied directly to coverage level, so the higher the coverage level, the higher the SURE payment in the event of a crop disaster. This means decisions regarding insurance for 2009 winter wheat, forage and rye crops deserve thoughtful consideration.
What crops are defined as forage?
Forage may encompass different crops in each state and may or may not be insurable in each county. For example, in Iowa, forage includes alfalfa, alfalfa/grass mix and red clover. In Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming, forage includes alfalfa and alfalfa/grass mix. Farmers should consult with their local FCSAmerica office or call 800-884-FARM to find out which crops are insurable in their counties, she says.
With crop insurance rising in importance, Smith says it's essential to work with someone who understands the crop insurance market, the program changes that happen every year and the nuances of each operation's needs.
Choose a trusted advisor for insurance
"While crop insurance is regulated, there are differences," she notes. "Farm Credit Services of America is specialized in two ways. First, we only serve agriculture, and second, the only insurance coverage we sell is for crops and the revenue they produce."
The company's crop insurance professionals provide year-round expertise and support including review of each individual's production history and policy setup, she says. They also use FCSAmerica's interactive software program, AgriView, to help farmers evaluate the best crop insurance options and analyze cost impact on profitability. More information is available at any of the 42 local offices of FSCAmerica or at www.fcsamerica.com.
The September 30 deadline is also important for farmers to sign up at FSA offices for USDA's 2008 Direct and Countercyclical Payment Program, which helps deliver certainty for the crop year and the option of a timely disaster payment.