Some weather forecasts are calling for a La Nina-related dry spring in 2021. After three or four unusually wet planting seasons in a row, many farmers would welcome more “normal” conditions for putting their crops in.
But dry soils can also be problematic, meaning some producers might once again be confronted with the prevented planting rules for Federal Crop Insurance policies, according to Grant Ballard, an attorney based in Little Rock, Ark.
Ballard, the speaker for a recent National Agricultural Law Center Webinar titled “Federal Crop Insurance: Legal Update and Latest Developments,” is a nationally recognized legal practitioner who represents farmers in Arkansas and other states in cases involving Federal Crop Insurance policy issues.
“For those of you who may not be aware prevented planting coverage is provided when an insured is not able to plant an insured crop due to insurable causes of loss that affects similarly situated producers,” said Ballard. “Every year there seem to be a lot of disputes regarding prevented planting eligibility.”
Ballard said the USDA Risk Management Agency, which oversees the Federal Crop Insurance Program, included changes in prevented planted coverage when it issued the 21.1-BR Common Crop Insurance Policy, a 44-page document, in November 2020.
For many years, he said, the Federal Crop Insurance Program worked from the 11-BR, which was issued in 2011. Since then, the Risk Management Agency has issued revisions in 2017, 2018 and in 2020 for the 21.1-BR.
“The 21 BR includes three or four specific changes, which I think were primarily added to provide some clarity,” he noted. “One revision expands the nationwide ‘one in four’ requirement that acreage must have been planted to a crop insured and harvested, or if not harvested adjusted, in at least one out of the previous four crop years to retain prevented planting eligibility.
“Also, the prevented planting provisions were amended to clarify that coverage is not going to be provided if haying or grazing a cover crop contributed to the prevented planting of the intended acreage.”
Another revision provides an exception allowing a producer to be paid a prevented planting payment based on a crop other than the crop planted on the acreage, he said. “Again, the burden is on the insured to prove that the producer intended to plant that crop.”
Failure of insureds to make timely payments is also an issue the Risk Management Agency has addressed in its recent policy changes.
“In the past, especially with the 11-BR, we had a system where a lot of producers were left without coverage due to very minor failures to make timely payments,” said Ballard. “I think these are good changes, and, if you represent the insured, you need to be aware of the process for administrative reinstatement of crop insurance coverage because so many of our clients and their lenders rely on crop insurance coverage.”
Section 14 of the 21.1-BR also provides clarification that the notice of loss must be filed by the producer or the insurance provider to consider whether delayed notice impacts the ability to adjust losses.
“I want to stress and stress again the notice requirements in the crop insurance policy are tantamount to a successful client process,” he said.