SCO rollout tied to farm bill signup?

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, May 7, 2014 - Later this fall, USDA expects to allow growers to sign up for either the new Price Loss Coverage (PLC) or Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) commodity programs, but they'll also have another key decision to make: whether to participate in a new optional crop insurance program called the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) which will be available for 2015. SCO can provide area-based coverage to supplement the producer's individual insurance plan coverage. This option will be rated by the Risk Management Agency and have its premium subsidized at a rate of 65 percent.

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The decision making process - looking at both commodity programs and crop insurance - needs to go hand in hand, especially when you consider that the SCO can only be purchased for crops covered under the PLC program. Yet, several growers have been concerned that information on the new SCO program - which relies on county level data - won't be available at the same time as commodity program signup.

However, Risk Management Agency Administrator Brandon Willis tried to put those concerns to rest on Tuesday.

“We are trying to get SCO out as soon as possible,” he told farm broadcasters gathered at USDA for their annual Washington Watch event. “This fall, winter wheat will be first crop that will have SCO available,” he explained, while noting that information on SCO options will also be available for producers of corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, and rice - whenever commodity program signup starts.

Willis says it's safe to say that, for crops and counties where group risk plans are currently available, there will likely be enough information to enable the SCO signup. But RMA will not have the necessary data for every crop in every county by this fall, which will require the agency to keep expanding the number of counties where SCO is an option through 2016 and 2017.

“We are going to put out all of the information that we can so people can make an informed decision this fall,” Willis told Agri-Pulse. “But just the way that SCO is …. we are going to try to expand to more counties and crops,” he added. “We do realize that there's not a way to overcome the issue that you have to sign up for ARC and PLC at one point in time ….. and the fact that we will continue to expand SCO. The vast majority of producers will know…the only other alternative is not to expand (SCO) and that's not going to happen.”

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