USDA proposes new rule to expand crop insurance for fruits, vegetables

By Sara Wyant

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 25, 2015 - USDA is proposing changes that could lead to the expansion of crop insurance to additional crops, including many fruit and vegetables.

The proposed rule addresses changes required under the 2014 farm bill - supported by Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and other panel members -- that will reform USDA's process for developing new crop insurance policies.

Lets Talk Food

“For too long the federal crop insurance program hasn't fully included our nation's fruit and vegetable growers,” said Stabenow. “That's why we fought for reforms in the farm bill to put these producers on equal footing with traditional commodities.” 

In addition, Stabenow said, “We should be encouraging the production of fruits and vegetables with the same level of commitment that we support row crops and traditional commodities.”

The proposed rule is aimed at improving the submission process for insurance policies to the Federal Crop Insurance Corp.

The Federal Crop Insurance Act allows private individuals and groups with crops or livestock to develop insurance products for consideration and approval by the FCIC board of directors.

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The proposed rule requires the board to first consider underserved and uninsured commodities. The second consideration must be policies for commodities that have inadequate coverage or low levels of participation under existing insurance products. Policies that do not fit into the first two categories may then be considered, according to USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA).

The board also would have the authority to approve an advance payment of an additional 25 percent, above the current 50 percent, of estimated research and development costs of products that the board determines provide coverage for underserved regions or crops, including specialty crops.

In addition, the proposed rule includes funding for a pilot program for a new type of insurance that targets previously uninsured producers.

“These improvements will help expand and improve crop insurance to underserved crops,” RMA Administrator Brandon Willis in a release. “We are continuing our work to ensure that a wider variety of producers have access to sound risk management tools to keep themselves protected from disaster.”

The proposed rule is available at the Federal Register. The public comment period is open until April 27. More information on FCIC and the 508(h) process is available on the RMA website.

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