Clarification of Prevented Planting Standards for Our Area

In late August, the Department of Agriculture announced a statement that clarified acreage eligibility for prevented planting for the 2014 and succeeding crop years in the Prairie Pothole National Priority Area, which includes Butler County (as well as Grundy, Floyd, Mitchell, and almost every county in Iowa west of them).

Prevented planting, as many of our readers will know, is an extra insurance option most farmers can purchase that protects them against low yields due to a later than authorized planting (which may have been caused by frost, wet conditions, or other natural effects). The Farm Service Agency estimates that over 7.7 million acres in the United States were prevented planting land in 2013, with Iowa having over 613K in corn and 106K in soybean acres. However, further estimates for at least one state indicate this estimate was much lower than reality. It won’t be until December when we hear the final estimate numbers.

Prevented planting has several limitations, and one of them was the restriction that in order for a plot of land to qualify, it had to be “physically available for planting.” The regulations state that acreage is “not considered physically available for planting” if the acreage “has any other condition, as determined by [Risk Management Agency], that would prevent the proper and timely planting of the crop when weather and other conditions are normal for the area in which the acreage is located.” [Emphasis added].

But after persuasion from Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp and Congressman Kevin Cramer, all from North Dakota, the ‘normal’ weather condition provision was eliminated due to its very subjective nature. Risk Management Agency Administer Brandon Willis stated, “The goal is to make Federal crop insurance policy more objective and to provide clarity for the producers facing prevented planting losses.”

This doesn’t mean that just any land is eligible, though. If the land is a ‘problem spot’ that is consistently hard to farm, it can’t qualify for prevented planting. In 2011, the Agency implemented a ‘1 in 4’ requirement, so that eligibility required farming the land in at least one of the prior four years. Some of the latest reports on the new changes made it appear that the ‘1 in 4’ requirement itself was a new provision. We didn’t think so, and after contacting John Shea at RMA, he confirmed with us that the ‘1 in 4’ has indeed been in place for a couple of years now. The new addition, however, is that in order to get out of the ‘1 in 4 problem spot,’ —back into eligibility—a farmer must plant and harvest a crop (cover crops don’t count) two years in a row on that land.

Readers, if you have any other issues with prevented planting or farm regulation compliance, we’d like to hear about them and build a dialogue focused on helping our farming clients and community. Drop a comment or send an email anytime.

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