Agriculture Department officials expect farmers to file more than $1 billion in insurance claims for acreage they were unable to plant due to the succession of storms across the Midwest and Mississippi River valley this spring.

Bill Northey, USDA's undersecretary for farm production and conservation, said prevented planting acres have reached as high as 10 million in the past and that claims this year "could easily exceed that high range." 

As of Monday, the Risk Management Agency has paid roughly $151 million in prevent plant claims related to excess moisture and flooding for this crop year, a $39 million increase from the week before. “We expect that to certainly, pass the $1 billion-dollar mark if you look at the acres in the prevent plant area,” said Northey.       

According to RMA data, prevent plant indemnities have exceeded $1 billion five times since 2009 and topped $2 billion in 2011 and 2013. Prevent plant benefits this year would be the highest since at least 2015 when they totaled $1.3 billion, or 21% of total indemnities.                   

RMA's chief of staff, Keith Gray, said most claims are coming from the upper Midwest and along the Mississippi River. 

“Those river basins that have been in the flooding areas, are where a large majority of prevent plant claims that we’re seeing,” Gray said.

Gray expects to have a better picture on the amount of claims to be filed by the end of this month.

Certain producers also now have until July 15 to report prevented plant acres to the Farm Service Agency which coincides with the July 15 crop acreage reporting deadline already in place. Those states include: Michigan, New York, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Vermont, and Nebraska.

Normally, the prevented plant reporting deadline is 15 calendar days after the final planting date for a crop, which is established by FSA and RMA. The deadline only applies to FSA and not the RMA crop insurance reporting deadline.

USDA is encouraging farmers to plant cover crops on prevent plant acres, which would then be eligible for a minimal payment under the next round of the Market Facilitation Program, the Trump administration's trade assistance package for farmers.

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Farmers who want to grow cover crops also are eligible for cost-share assistance from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. 

Certain states including Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma and South Dakota have started special signup dates for farmers who could not get into their fields this spring.

NRCS Chief Matt Lohr said deadlines vary by state and producers need to visit with their local NRCS office.

Planting cover crops has also sparked questions as to what qualifies as a cover crop. Some farmers have considered planting corn and soybeans on prevented plant acres.

Northey said farmers will need to work with local county experts in their area as to determine what type of cover crop would work best.

For this year only, USDA is allowing cover crops on prevent plant acres to be used for hay or grazing as soon as Sept. 1. The normal date is Nov. 1. Cover crops still cannot be harvested for seed or grain. 

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