It’s been a tough fall for producers this year as rain and snow have hampered the nation’s combines, and the Department of Agriculture wants to make sure producers are in line with crop insurance requirements for a slowed harvest.

Next Monday, December 10 is a critical date for producers. By that time, the insurance period for spring-planted crops covered under the Risk Management Agency (RMA) administered crop insurance program ends.

“It’s not easy in some cases to understand exactly what each farmer’s situation is, but you can see some of these pockets that maybe neighboring areas got their harvest out but (a different farmer) got an extra rain that shortened up the harvest season,” USDA Undersecretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said in an interview with Agri-Pulse

USDA’s procedures allow crop insurance companies to authorize policyholders, on a case-by-case basis, more time to attempt to harvest so claims can be settled based on harvested production. That in mind, Northey said farmers need to give their insurance agent a call if they think they’ll be late, and farmers have a few options.

Primarily, producers are asked to get in touch with their crop insurance agent to document the delay in harvest was not because due to a lack of sufficient equipment or manpower to harvest the crop by the end of the insurance period. If given timely notice, insurance providers can determine and document the delay in harvest was due to an insured cause of loss and a timely harvest was not possible.

Northey said he’s been in contact with producers in Tennessee, and “there are some soybeans yet to harvest in that area.” The same could be said, he added, for many upper plains states.

“North Dakota has struggled in some of the crops as well,” he said. “Yet in between those pockets some have had just enough window to harvest.”

USDA has observed harvest delays in almost every state, and Northey said cotton is “very delayed” in the southern plains. Soybean harvest has also been slowed in certain areas along the East Coast or upper Midwest.

"Everthing's been behind. Behind planting, behind spraying, everything's just been behind," Maryland corn and soybean grower Mike Harrison said. "There's water laying on top of the ground and streams going through the field."  He's got 100 acres of corn left to harvest and expects to be done in the next week or so. 

It's the same story in southeast Michigan. Dan Cable, Vice President of the Michigan Corn Growers Association, continues to shell corn near Maybee and said they've had "tremendous rains" the entire fall. "It's hard to be upbeat about something most of us have looked forward to doing our whole life." 

According to the Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service, farmers have harvested 94 percent of the nation's corn crop and 95 percent of the soybeans. The nation's cotton (98 percent), sorghum (99 percent), peanuts (96 percent), and sunflowers (87 percent) are nearly all out of fields, but almost every state has a few untouched acres.

“Sometimes you look out there and say, ‘there’s only five percent left to harvest,” Northey said. “That still could be a lot of dollars and a lot of producers.”

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