If you haven’t yet signed up for crop insurance coverage for 2020, do it now. The March 15 deadline is looming, and crop insurance is a key financial management tool you need as a crop producer.
“Don’t wait any longer. USDA Farm Service Agency county offices are getting crowded and crop insurance agents are also busy,” notes Steve Johnson, Iowa State University Extension farm management specialist. “Call and make an appointment.”
What’s the biggest challenge for farmers in choosing crop insurance coverage for 2020? “There are a lot of options available,” says Doug Burns, vice president of insurance for Farm Credit Services of America. “Don’t make your decision at the last minute. You have two big decisions to make for 2020. It’s a USDA farm program participation decision as well as a crop insurance decision. Things have changed with the 2018 Farm Bill compared to the previous 2014 Farm Bill.”
Tying your USDA farm program decision and crop insurance decision together this year is important because they can affect each other, Johnson notes.
Don’t wait until deadline date
While the crop insurance sales closing date is March 15, this year is a little different because March 15 falls on a Sunday. You actually have until end of the day on March 16. “But don’t wait,” Burns says, “visit your local FSA office and call your crop insurance agent. Give yourself some time to get the information, get your questions answered and make the right decision for your farming operation.”
FCSAmerica has a new, exclusive software technology tool called Optimum, to help farmers make the crop insurance choices that are right for their farming operation. “It’s a software program that runs hundreds of scenarios,” Burns says, “based on a producer’s specific yield history, insurance policy options, market factors, subsidy levels and more. It’s helpful in making data-driven decisions — for your crop insurance decision. It helps remove the complexity involved in making your choices of which options to sign up for.”
They also have additional software to evaluate the best FSA farm program decision for your operation by using yields and price scenarios.
Looking back at weather problems of recent years, crop insurance pays. Indeed, 2019 was another year that proved the value of having crops insured. “As of mid-January 2020, our FCSAmerica customers had already received about $310 million in indemnities, almost double the year prior for our four states where we operate,” Burns says. “Within Iowa, there was about $42 million in claims paid for 2019.”
Weather creates marketing opportunity
FCSAmerica sells crop insurance in Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. “We had a busy crop insurance year last year with a lot of adverse weather in our states,” he notes. “Going into spring 2020, soils are pretty much saturated, and some areas are seeing early indications of flooding already. We’ll have to wait and see what happens with weather this spring. Remember, weather scares create marketing opportunity.”
Last spring with excessive rain and flooding in areas, there were a lot of prevented planting and replanting questions. “We held public meetings for farmers and posted videos and other information on our website,” Burns says. “We went to extra lengths to provide timely, detailed information and recommendations.”
From what he’s learned talking to farmers this winter, what does Burns think farmers are overlooking as they are making crop insurance decisions for 2020? “I tell them don’t forget, crop insurance gives you the ability to forward-contract or otherwise forward-market your crop. It provides guaranteed revenue. It’s the only crop input that guarantees revenue from your crop. It provides some guaranteed revenue bushels to forward contract.”
Last summer, farmers had opportunities to take advantage of market price increases and forward contract bushels with the revenue guarantee provided by crop insurance. “As we enter spring and field activities increase and busy times begin, I remind farmers to watch the market for opportunities to forward price some of their crop,” he adds. “If you have crop insurance in place as a backstop, you can forward price or forward control some new crop bushels.”
Making your ARC-PLC decision
Regarding USDA farm program decisions farmers must make as a result of changes brought by the 2018 Farm Bill, consider your options, Burns advises. Some producers are choosing the FSA’s Price Loss Coverage program for 2020. The Supplemental Coverage Option for crop insurance can be used with the FSA’s PLC program. The SCO option has been available for a while but not many farmers took advantage of it in the 2014 Farm Bill.
Thus, if you choose PLC, you can choose the SCO option for crop insurance. It’s a federally subsidized program, 65% subsidized using county-based coverage.
“Producers really need to take a look at SCO,” Burns says. “Again, it’s important to tie these decisions together — FSA farm program choice and your choice of which crop insurance option. There are other various private crop insurance policies available. Farmers can buy up to 95% coverage levels and look at different markets and options. There is considerable complexity to crop insurance. If you have any interest in these products, contact one of our FCSAmerica offices across Iowa. We have the information and digital tools to help you figure out the best combination for your farming operation.”
For more information visit fcsamerica.com. For information on the Supplemental Coverage Option that crop insurance companies are offering, read Steve Johnson’s newly posted article on the ISU Ag Decision Maker website. Titled “Considerations for Adding SCO Crop Insurance,” it’s available at Considerations for Adding SCO Crop Insurance.