Posted August 28, 2013

USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) announced a Special Provision statement to clarify acreage eligible for prevented plant crop insurance coverage in the Prairie Pothole National Priority Area.  The RMA news release is available here. 
The new provision will require acreage to be planted and harvested (or have incurred an insurable loss for something other than excess moisture) in at least one out of the last four years, regardless of whether any of those years was abnormally dry.  According to an AG Week article, available here, RMA also announced that if a crop is ineligible because of the one-in-four rule, it must be planted and harvested for two years in a row for a future crop to get back in the program.  The agency will also remove “a provision that disqualified land for prevented plant insurance if marsh vegetation, such as a single cattail, was found on it.”
The changes refer to regions of Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota for the 2014 and succeeding crop years.
RMA Administrator Brandon Willis said that the new provision “creates a more objective means for determining acreage eligible for prevented planting than the current rule.”  According to Willis, a report from USDA’s Office of Inspector General will be released in the next several weeks and is expected to eliminate ambiguities.  Dan Wogsland, executive director of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, said that his organization is “extremely pleased that the RMA backed off of the abnormally dry provision and is going with the one-in-four rule.”
Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), and Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), announced the new guidelines in a press release from Rep. Cramer’s office available here.  According to the press release, the changes were a result of the delegation’s work with the RMA.  Sen. Hoven met with RMA administrator Brandon Willis in May to discuss the prevented plant rules.  Sen. Heitkamp previously requested “clarification from RMA regarding an across-the-board application of the ‘normal weather clause’ in North Dakota.”  In July, Heitkamp hosted Michael Scuse of USDA in Bismarck “to hear directly from North Dakota farmers” and express her concerns with ambiguity in the prevented plant policies.
Interested in learning more about federal crop insurance?  The 34th Annual Conference of the American Agricultural Law Association will focus on a number of federal crop insurance issues, including a panel session on crop insurance.  For information on the conference, click here.  The crop insurance panel will be moderated by Robert Serio, Serio Law Office, and panel speakers include:
  • David P. Grahn, Associate General Counsel, USDA;
  • Grant Ballard, Attorney, Banks Law Firm, PLLC;
  • Harrison Pittman, Director, National Agricultural Law Center;
  • Greg James, Attorney at Law, Clarendon, AR;
  • Michael Stevens, Oxford, MS; and
  • Kurt Henke, Oxford, MS.