After enduring one of the worst winters in memory, South Dakota farmers were hoping for favorable spring planting conditions.
But that’s not what we got. Moisture just keeps coming. In some parts of the state, portions of fields are still flooded. And warm, sunny days—the kind that warm up soils—have been few and far between.
The planting window is shrinking; the next few weeks are critical. If farmers still can’t get into their fields, filing Prevented Planting crop insurance claims may be their best move.
The Prevented Plant Safety Net
Prevented Planting provisions are part of the standard Multi-Peril Crop Insurance made available through the USDA.
To learn more about Prevented Plant, we visited with Elly Daisy, insurance officer at Farm Credit Services of America; Tyler Leighton, VP related services at Farm Credit Services of America; and Reno Brueggeman, past president of the South Dakota Corn Utilization Council and owner of Brueggeman Crop Insurance in Miller, S.D.
Because of this year’s weather, farmers who haven’t had Prevented Plant issues in the past want to learn about the program. Farm Credit Services has held informational meetings in Mitchell, Sioux Falls, Yankton and Corsica.
“We’re holding the meetings in response to the number of questions we’ve received around Prevent Plant,” says Leighton. “We invite our partners—the insurance companies we write with—and together we answer farmers’ questions.”
What Prevented Plant Provides
Insurance companies expect that farmers will try to plant their crops. When that can’t happen—because fields are too wet or farmers can’t even reach their fields due to washed out roads—Prevented Plant is an option.
“On corn you are guaranteed 55 percent of your crop insurance guarantee. Farmers can also buy up five percent to get that to 60 percent,” Brueggeman says. The deadline for locking in crop insurance on corn in South Dakota was March 15.
Daisy says, “With the abundance of expected Prevented Plant, it is critical to understand your eligible acres and your guarantee in order to make a sound decision. Your policy structure, APH units and crop rotation can have a large impact on your Prevented Planting eligibility and payment.”
When to File Prevented Plant
The final plant date for corn in South Dakota is May 25 or May 31, depending on the county. Farmers must file a notice of loss 72 hours after the final planting date.
Following the final plant date, there’s a late plant period, Leighton explains. “Farmers have 25 days following their late plant date, but they basically sacrifice one percent of their guarantee each day they wait.”
“A lot of times when they get past the final plant dates, farmers feel that it’s not necessarily viable to plant because of the yield reduction they’re looking at,” Leighton says.
After farmers file the notice of loss and the acreage report is signed and processed, an adjuster from their crop insurance company will be in touch.
“This year, claims could be strung out for a longer period of time than in a normal year,” Brueggeman says. “There may potentially be a lot of claims.”
Leighton agrees. “We’ve got farmers who are planting corn. And then we’ve got others who are just waiting for a window so their acres can dry up and warm up. We do expect a large amount of Prevented Plant claims this year. We may have whole fields and areas that the guys just can’t get to, especially if they’re near waterways.”
“As far as the amount of area covered, how widespread it is and the infrastructure damage, I think it’s the worst I’ve seen,” Leighton says.
What about cover crops?
If farmers cannot get a crop into their fields in time, planting a cover crop or forage crop becomes an attractive alternative.
“Once you’ve declared Prevent Plant, you’ve got that barren soil out there and you still have to maintain it,” says Leighton. “You can’t just let weeds cover it. So a lot of guys will go in and plant cover crops.”
“Then there are whole additional group of scenarios, rules and regulations that open up if you go down that path,” he says.
One option is to plant an uninsured crop like forage or a cover crop, according to Brueggeman. “However, farmers cannot hay it, cut it, graze it or harvest it before November 1. And if you do, you sacrifice your Prevented Plant payment,” he explains. “Along with a reduction to your Prevented Plant payment, a yield equal to 60 percent of the approved yield will be used as an APH plug for that year on the Prevented Plant crop,” Daisy says.
Another option is to plant an insured crop on those acres. “Farmers can seed alfalfa or plant wheat into Prevented Plant acres and have insurance coverage, as these are now 2020 crops, provided they don’t cut until after November 1,” Daisy adds.
Working with Your Crop Insurance Agent
Leighton encourages farmers to visit with their crop insurance agents. “The most important thing for farmers is to make sure they’re working with a crop insurance agent that can walk them through their unique scenarios.”
“Every operation is different,” Leighton says. “Everyone’s going to have different decisions to make, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting the advice and the assistance you need. “