WASHINGTON, Aug. 26, 2013- USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced a new Special Provision statement to clarify acreage eligible for prevented planting in the Prairie Pothole National Priority Area.

The provision applies to prevented planting and acreage that is physically available for planting in regions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota for the 2014 crop and succeeding crop years. The Prairie Pothole region is where the “bulk of money is going” from the program, noted RMA Administrator Brandon Willis.

Under the rule, for acreage to be eligible for prevented planting payments, the acreage must have been planted and harvested in one out of the last four years, regardless of whether one of those years was abnormally dry.

“The new rule is meant to apply a much more objective standard,” Willis said. He added that the previous policy required planting and harvesting to be done in a “normal year.” Under the new provision, that metric is broadened to make the means for determine eligibility more objective. For instance, if farmers planted and harvested in 2012 under “abnormally dry conditions,” they can now use that year in their eligibility for the program.

Also under the new rule, once the producer is unable to plant and harvest on certain acreage in one of the four most recent crop years, the producer will need to demonstrate the land is farmable by planting and harvesting two years in a row.

RMA wrote the provision in response to recommendations made by crop insurance companies, the USDA Office of Inspector General (OIG), and producers in the Prairie Pothole regions. 

“We’ve been pressing RMA to make the prevented planting program work for our producers and to ensure the guidelines are clear and concise,” said Senator John Hoeven, R-N.D. in a statement today.

Hoeven, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., will join RMA Administrator Willis and North Dakota producers in roundtable discussion about the rule tomorrow.

“Removing the normal weather clause is a positive step for the next season, and I am pleased that USDA heeded our concerns,” Heitkamp said today.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., also encouraged RMA to simplify the prevented planting rules late last week.

“Our farmers and insurance agents need better certainty on these rules not only in the near-term, but for future years to prevent a repeat of the confusion we are seeing,” said Cramer, who noted  that USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) estimated North Dakota has over 4.4 million acres prevented from planting for the 2013 growing season.

“It became very clear that everyone really just wanted the rules to be clearer,” Willis said, referring to sessions with producers in North Dakota and an audit report completed by OIG.

Rep. Cramer said today he is pleased that RMA recognized “the lack of clarity in its own rules by removing the weather condition qualifier for future years,” but he is concerned about its effect on producers for the current growing season.

“Making this change apply retroactively would have been a better decision," said Cramer. "I will make myself and my staff available to assist any producer who encounters difficulty counting 2012 toward the 1 in 4 rule.”


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