USDA finalizes crop insurance rules

By Spencer Chase

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WASHINGTON, June 29, 2016 - USDA's Risk Management Agency has announced the completion of the final round of crop insurance provisions stemming from the 2014 farm bill.

In an announcement that will be published in the Federal Register on Thursday, RMA's Federal Crop Insurance Corporation will leave its 2014 proposal largely untouched save for some native sod provisions.  The final rule will clarify an exception allowing producers to break up to five acres of native sod without receiving reduced premium subsidies on coverage of native sod acreage.

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RMA Administrator Brandon Willis said the updated rules will help ensure American producers “are able to better manage risks so they can continue to farm even after years of severe weather.” According to a USDA release, RMA began implementation of the provisions for the 2015 crop year, but the final rule “enables RMA to continue to offer and expand on the farm bill provisions for the federal crop insurance program.”

In an email to Agri-Pulse, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director Ferd Hoefner called the five-acre exemption “an important win” for sod-saver advocates. However, he expressed disappointment in the interpretation of RMA's annual reporting requirements on new breakings of grassland. He also took issue with language allowing for producers to receive a full crop insurance subsidy “when they sod-bust, provided that for the first four years they plant a perennial crop or a non-insured annual crop.”

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“This diminishes the value of the farm bill language as a disincentive to sod-busting,” he said. “Now that the agency is unwilling or unable to close the loophole, it will now need to be fixed in the 2018 farm bill, and we will be asking Congress to do just that.”

USDA says the final rule also completes provisions such as enterprise units for irrigated and non-irrigated crops, adjustment in actual production history to establish insurable yields, farmer and rancher provisions, coverage levels by practice, and the authority to correct errors.

Over 350 comments - 21 of them unique submissions - were submitted on the proposal. 

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