Senator John Hoeven this week met with U.S. Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary nominee Krysta Harden and spoke with USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) Acting Administrator Brandon Willis. The senator contacted both of them to secure help for North Dakota growers with crop insurance, particularly prevented plant insurance, because of a very wet growing season. Hoeven announced that Willis committed to help in three areas:
Willis said 2012 won't automatically be considered an abnormally dry year for the purpose of the 1 in 4 rule, which would disqualify some producers from obtaining prevented plant coverage; however, growers will have to work with their insurers on a case-by-case basis to make the determination.
Willis also committed to clarify and simplify the 1 in 4 rule by this fall so that there will be no confusion regarding coverage and eligibility in the 2014 crop year. Because the current definition of "normal weather conditions" is a matter of subjective interpretation, growers are uncertain about how they could use those years to qualify for prevented plant insurance. Hoeven has pressed Willis and others to eliminate the confusion that was prevalent this year, and Willis now says he is working with his staff to develop more objective criteria to define "normal weather conditions."
At the senator's invitation, the administrator agreed to visit North Dakota in August to update producers and hear their concerns.
"By getting RMA to acknowledge that 2012 cannot be disqualified for the one in four rule due to weather conditions statewide, we've brought common sense to the determination of who is eligible for prevented plant this year," Hoeven said. "It's important now that we get some clarity on the rule going forward."
Excessively high moisture combined with cold weather and late snowfalls in parts of North Dakota this spring prevented or delayed planting, which means a number of producers are seeking coverage under prevented plant crop insurance. RMA's rule for prevented planting insurance, however, requires that covered acreage must have a crop planted and harvested in 1 of the previous 4 years. Growers were concerned that the RMA will not apply the 1 in 4 rule to acreage that was planted in 2012 because the agency claims that year was abnormally dry statewide. That concern is now lifted for some growers.
In May, Hoeven hosted Willis in Fargo and Bismarck at roundtable meetings held with a broad range of North Dakota agriculture group leaders to provide an update and press for a clarification of the prevented plant rules, the Farm Bill and other agricultural issues important to North Dakota growers.
Hoeven also successfully included an amendment in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill requiring the agency to simplify the provisions to make them more predictable to producers and reflective of local conditions. The measure will further help to clarify program rules.
"We need to ensure a producer's prevented planting claim cannot be dismissed because the RMA decides arbitrarily that the farmer's acreage is unplantable during "normal weather conditions,'" Hoeven said.
Hoeven, a member of both the Senate Agriculture and Appropriations Committees, worked to include strong enhanced crop insurance provisions in the Farm Bill that passed the Senate in May, as well as in the Agriculture Appropriations bill passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee in June. Farmers and ranchers across North Dakota and the country told the senator they need effective risk management tools.