Reducing risk management coverage and undermining the role of the private sector in federal budget proposals or legislative amendments would hurt farmers, contends Mike Day, former chairman of National Crop Insurance Services. "Keep crop insurance strong for American farmers and ranchers, our rural communities and our food supply," writes Day, who now works with the Rural Community Insurance Services division of Zurich North America.
Deadlines for crop insurance are approaching, with due dates of Feb. 28 or March 15 on the calendar for most spring-planted crops, according to the USDA Risk Management Agency. The RMA encourages farmers to consult the RMA Actuarial Browser for information on sales closing dates for various counties, states and crops.
Congress has expanded crop insurance options for dairy producers and revised the Margin Protection Program by reducing premiums, making price drop adjustments more frequent and expanding two-tiered coverage from four million pounds to five million, said Joe Shultz, staff director to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., at the Great Lakes Dairy Expo. The plan became effective immediately upon passage of the federal budget bill on Feb. 9.
The budget President Donald Trump proposed last week recommends decreasing crop insurance premium discounts by $26 billion over 10 years, representing a 33% drop in government subsidies. "If you make it impossible to deliver a risk management tool and then you cut the funding for the risk management tool, then you basically set back not only the wheat growers but all farmers' ability to protect themselves against things they can't control, like the weather," said National Association of Wheat Growers CEO Chandler Goule.
The 2018 farm bill's chances of passing on time rose after dairy and cotton were included in the federal supplemental disaster bill, said House Agriculture Committee chair Mike Conaway, R-Texas. "Our challenge is to educate members to how important crop insurance is to the farmers' safety net," he said.
Passage of a farm bill by Sept. 30 would be preferable to extending the current legislation, attorney David Bridgforth said. Bridgforth predicted Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage programs will be preserved in the 2018 farm bill and said he would recommend against any proposal to reduce premium discounts since that would weaken the crop insurance program.
Corn and soybean price projections below 2017 levels, along with lower volatility, may result in reduced crop insurance premiums, say Steve Johnson of Iowa State Extension and Art Barnaby of Kansas State Extension. Farmers shouldn't be tempted to reduce coverage, Johnson says, but should consult their crop insurance agents for help developing a coverage plan.
Paying attention to long-term weather forecasts can help farmers make decisions that decrease the chances of crop losses, says James Garriss of the Browning World Climate Bulletin. "Weather, despite what everyone wants to tell you, is the one thing we really don't have control over," said Garriss.
The most severe drought conditions in four years are behind a wheat rally, leaving producers with a choice between cash sales based on guaranteed bushels or options-based strategies that avoid cash bushel commitments, says Joe Valavik of Standard Grain. Valavik suggests consulting a crop insurance agent to assure sales of a safe number of bushels.
Look for five specific pests when inspecting crops and act early to eradicate them and protect potential yields, says Eric Eller of ForeFront Ag Solutions. Eller describes wireworms, black cutworms, seed corn maggots, slugs and armyworms.