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Prevent plant insurance on minds of farmers

Ag producers consider coverage level after wet fall

Water stands in an unharvested field north of Minot last fall. Saturated ground conditions and unharvested crops are leading more farmers to think about insurance for prevented planting this year. Jill Schramm/MDN

Minot-area farmers are considering the possibility that last fall’s wet weather could mean some fields will go unplanted this spring. It is on the minds of many as they prepare to finalize their crop insurance by the March 15 deadline.

Insurance for prevented planting is standard with a policy, but it typically caps out at 50% to 60% coverage, depending on the crop, unless farmers purchase additional coverage.

They can buy another 5% for any crop or crops, said Denise Krebsbach, insurance manager with Farm Credit Services in Minot. The additional coverage adds 6% to the cost for the covered crop, and the buy-up must be allowed by the insurance provider.

“People here can probably do that, and people are doing that. We are seeing people buy up on prevent plant,” Krebsbach said. In some cases, farmers choose to buy up only on their earliest planted crops in event of a wet spring while taking the standard coverage on later planted crops, she said.

Insurers may be less inclined to approve the extra coverage in areas where there has been excessive fall and winter moisture, particularly the James River Valley and southeast Red River Valley.

Dennie Stratton, crop insurance production manager for Farmers Union Insurance, Surrey, said prevent plant is a big concern in the southeastern part of the state, where farmers already are giving up on some acreage. He doesn’t expect an inordinate number of prevent plant claims in the Minot area, although he noted much can still happen to affect that picture in the weeks yet to come.

“There’s still a lot of crop standing out there. That’s probably one of the bigger issues we are seeing is people are wondering if they are going to have prevent plant coverage if it’s so wet they can’t get the crop off their fields. Most cases, it’s a yes, but there are some cases where it’s a no,” Stratton said.

There are a number of factors within crop insurance that come into play in addition to whether a farmer is able to get into a field to plant it, said Jackie Larson with Western Agency in Minot.

For instance, farmers who are planting for the first time on acreage through a purchase or new rental agreement can be ineligible because they are acquiring the land in its current condition. With new operators, the “cause of loss” must happen after March 15.

Larson said farmers are asking lots of questions about prevented planting during this year’s insurance sign-up period.

“They are more concerned with the uncertainty because we came into fall with fairly saturated land. We do have some residual crop standing, and we don’t know what spring is going to bring us in terms of moisture,” she said.

Each crop has a specified final plant date, after which farmers can determine whether to file a prevent plant claim or continue to try to get a crop planted. Planting after the final plant date has repercussions, though, as some coverage is lost when a crop becomes at greater risk due to shorter growing season. The final date to claim prevent plant is July 15.

Larson said farmers are concerned about commodity prices as well as the rules for prevent plant. They are concerned about the rutted condition of fields that were harvested on saturated ground last fall.

“Getting the land back in shape is a big concern,” she said.

Krebsbach said getting crop insurance coverage right is a case-by-case matter.

“We don’t want to cookie-cutter it for anybody because everybody’s operation is different,” she said.

Stratton said producers need to make sure they understand their coverage and that their agents review all the options so they get policies that are tailored to their operations. He recommends farmers make sure they are comfortable with their overall coverage rather than focus on one factor.

“There are so many other perils that happen in our state,” he said. “I just hope everybody doesn’t just focus on prevent plant. I hope they focus on their coverage levels as a whole.”

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