While developing and adopting a new farm bill was a hurry up and wait ordeal most of us are not likely to forget, now that new farm legislation has been signed into law, most farmers find themselves trapped once again in a waiting game as federal agencies struggle to write the rules and regulations on how the many programs of the bill are going to work.
But good things come to those that wait. That's the message USDA is sending out this month after an announcement last week from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack who said progress is being made in developing the final rules for crop insurance coverage options for farmers and ranchers.
"It's critical that agricultural producers have crop insurance options to effectively manage risks and ensure that they do not lose everything due to events beyond their control. Following the 2014 farm bill signing, USDA has made it a priority to ensure the Supplemental Coverage Option was available to help farmers in this upcoming crop year," Vilsack told reporters last week.
The Secretary made the comments in reference to new provisions to be added this year, specifically the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) as provided for in the Agriculture Act of 2014.
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New SCO provisions will be available through the federal crop insurance program and will be administered by the Risk Management Agency (RMA). Vilsack expects the provisions to be available later this year and to become effective during the 2015 season.
He said the goal of increasing available options is to ensure that crop insurance will be an effective risk management tool. Crop insurance is vital, he added, and farmers and ranchers must have access to insurance coverage options that will allow them to manage risks in an effective way, and to make certain they will not lose everything should they be the victims of events outside their control.
More options available
The Agriculture Act of 2014 strengthens and expands crop insurance by providing more risk management options for farmers and ranchers and by making crop insurance more affordable for beginning farmers. SCO, which is administered by RMA, further strengthens the farm safety net.
SCO will be available for corn, cotton, grain sorghum, rice, soybeans, spring barley, spring wheat, and winter wheat in selected counties for the 2015 crop year. USDA is encouraging farmers to communicate with their crop insurance agents so that they can find out if they are eligible for this coverage.
RMA plans to make SCO more widely available by adding more counties and crops. Information on SCO for 2015 winter and spring wheat is available on the RMA website. Selected counties for other commodities will be released later this summer.
SCO is a county-level policy endorsement that is in addition to an underlying crop insurance policy and covers a portion of losses not covered by the same crop's underlying policy. Producers who elect to participate in Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC), which is offered by the Farm Service Agency (FSA), are not eligible for SCO for the crop or the farm that is participating in ARC.
According to a USDA press release last week, producers applying for SCO for the 2015 winter wheat crop may withdraw coverage on any farm where they have elected ARC for winter wheat by the either their acreage reporting date or Dec. 15 without penalty. Officials say this allows producers additional time to make an informed decision related to whether to elect to participate in either the ARC or Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs for winter wheat.
If producers withdraw SCO coverage for a farm by the earlier of their acreage reporting date or Dec. 15, USDA says they will not be charged a crop insurance premium. In order to withdraw coverage without penalty, producers must notify their agents of their intended election for ARC by the earlier of their winter wheat acreage reporting date or by Dec. 15.