Extended eligibility for prevented planting coverage in North & South Dakota

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Senator John Hoeven yesterday said USDA’s Risk Management Agency’s (RMA) decision to extend the eligibility for prevented planting coverage from one in three years to one in four is a step in the right direction. Hoeven has been pressing RMA for more flexible rules that will benefit farmers throughout the state who have suffered losses owing to prolonged flooding.

And, Governor Jack Dalrymple credited the Ag Department, but said more needs to be done to help farmers who suffer from persistent flooding in closed basins.

Beginning with the 2012 crop year, the new rule makes farmers eligible for Prevented Planting on acreage where they have produced a crop at least one in the past four years. Prior to the change, farmers had to have planted a crop during one of the past three years.

“This rule change is a positive step because it means that North Dakota farmers will be eligible for Prevented Planting on more acres,” Dalrymple said. “With more than 6 million acres left unplanted due to severe weather this year, our farmers need to retain as much eligibility as possible. But the rule change doesn’t address the unique situation of many farmers in closed basins where persistent flooding makes them ineligible for Prevented Planting insurance.”

The new rule will be helpful to Devils Lake producers, who have experienced heavy rains for two consecutive years and have thousands of acres under water. The old Prevented Planting policy does not allow a Prevented Plant claim on any farm land inundated for more than two years in a row or on farm land for which the initial cause of loss occurred in a prior year, which adversely affects many farmers in Devils Lake, who are currently in a wet cycle.

The Wetland Reserve Program (WRP) and the Conservation Land Program (CRP) are other available programs used by farmers in the Devils Lake area to help with unproductive or inundated land.  However, these programs have long easement durations and many acres are ineligible for the programs because of the amount of water on the land.

Changing the Prevented Plant policy will help more farmers that are caught in between the current policy and other available programs. Devils Lake has now inundated an additional 140,000 acres, or about 215 square miles, from its area in 1994, which was 44,000 acres. Much of that land will be put back into production once the lake recedes.

“It’s possible that a quarter of North Dakota’s cropland could remain unplanted this year, which makes programs like protected plant especially important,” Hoeven said.  “It’s vitally important, however, that the USDA look not only at Prevented Plant, but at all options available to help farmers make it through these difficult flood years.”

During a June 15 meeting in Washington, D.C., Dalrymple urged RMA Administrator William Murphy to implement a policy change in the Prevented Planting program that would address the needs of famers who suffer from long-term flooding in closed basins, including the Devils Lake area. Dalrymple also pressed Murphy to allow the planting and harvesting of cover crops on Prevented Planting acreage without significant penalties to farmers.

Senator Hoeven also called on Murphy last month to adjust the agency’s current crop insurance rules to make the Prevented Planting provision more accessible to Devils Lake farmers. He followed up with a letter last week, urging the administrator to adjust the policy considering the extraordinary circumstances of Devils Lake flooding.

And, Representative Kristi Noem applauded the United States Department of Agriculture on their announcement today modifying rules to allow farmers in the Prairie Pothole Region to have increased flexibility in accessing crop insurance prevented planting assistance in the 2012 crop year, if next year’s spring planting season is once again wetter than normal.

“Farmers in Northeastern South Dakota can’t control the fact that there have been three extremely wet years in a row. USDA’s decision will help ensure that a few wet years won’t make farmers who are exercising good farming practices ineligible for crop insurance because of conditions beyond their control.  I applaud USDA for making this common sense change,” said Noem.

The USDA modification will allow farmers to use the 2008 crop year as well as 2009, 2010 and 2011 in determining prevented planting coverage for 2012.  Previously, only the three most recent years would be considered.  Without this policy change for 2012, Northeastern South Dakota farmers, who have endured three very wet years in a row, would be severely limited in their ability to access prevented planting crop insurance coverage.

The change in prevented planting eligibility will take effect beginning with the 2012 crop year in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Montana.

Source: offices of Senator Hoeven, Governor Dalrymple, & Representative Kristi Noem

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