WAWG request to extend final plant date not accepted by RMA

With current field conditions hindering the spring planting season, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) requested an extension of the final plant date through the Risk Management Agency (RMA). WAWG’s request would have delayed the 1% per day reduction in guarantee by 10 days to allow time for field conditions to improve. RMA has denied the request in a letter dated April 19.

Final plant dates range from April 15 to May 15 depending on geographic location. Many grower members have expressed concern that the final plant date would not be met as high precipitation levels are causing spring field work to be 2-3 weeks behind normal schedule. Most recent NASS data shows 20% of spring wheat acres are planted compared to the 57% 5-year average.

WAWG encourages growers to work closely with their crop insurance agents, specifically at the prevent plant provisions as cited by RMA. If you are prevented from planting your acreage, growers are required to provide notice within 72 hours after: the final planting date OR you determine you will not be able to plant the insured crop within the late planting period (within 25 days of final plant date.) Crop provisions provide a payment of prevent plant acres at 60% of the insured crop unit guarantee.

The topic will be further discussed with RMA at the May 9 WAWG board meeting in Ritzville.

Related: RMA frequently asked questions-recent flooding

Curtis Evanenko of McGregor Risk Management Services has more information on crop insurance regarding prevented planting.

Given the anxiety many have expressed, it is prudent for me to share with you what the crop insurance policy provides regarding prevent planting coverage. Policy language states, “…a prevented planting payment may be made to you for eligible acreage if: you are prevented from planting the insured crop on insurable acreage by an insured cause of loss that occurs…” Generally, you are not required to plant beyond the stated final planting dates in your county actuarial, specific to the crop in question; however, much consideration is given to what ‘other area growers’ are doing as well. For instance, are you the only grower in your immediate area that is choosing not to plant due to the current conditions? Are all the necessary inputs (equipment, fertilizer, seed) readily available and at your disposal?

Prevented planting claims can be complicated and many variables come into play during the loss determination. The burden of proof remains with the policyholder—you must substantiate that your claim was due to an insurable cause of loss. It is not the job or responsibility of the crop adjuster to prove your position, they’re merely information gatherers. Photos and weather data are a great means to help support your position in the event of a prevented planting claim. Document, document, and then document some more.

Some of the terminology that could come into play during a prevent plant claim include:

  • 20/20 rule – Standard policy language of the minimum number of acres to qualify for a payment, 20 acres or 20 percent of the unit, whichever is less.
  • Eligible base acres – Is there a history of growing the crop that was prevented from planting? Adjusters look at the last 4 years of planting history.
  • Qualifying eligible base acres for the crop, or roll to the next closest or lower liability crop for payment – It’s all about your planting history and finding a ‘similar crop’ if liability needs to be ‘borrowed’ from another crop if you exhaust eligible base acres.
  • Planted prevent plant – At the discretion of the AIP (crop company) referring to crop planted after the late plant period and the insured at a 60 percent reduction in coverage, full premium. This is probably not as applicable to small grains, perhaps more suited for pulses.
  • Late plant period – This is the additional days beyond the final plant date that coverage is afforded under the policy. For each day past the final plant date, 1 percent of the unit guarantee is forfeited, to a maximum of 25 days. There is no reduction in premium per se, except that the premium calculation is based upon the reduced unit guarantee thereby reducing the premium of late planted acres. Unless otherwise noted, the policy provides up to 25 days of coverage beyond the final plant date posted in the county actuarial. Coverage is not provided beyond the late plant period, which is the final plant date plus the late plant period.

Reporting acres at Farm Service Agency (FSA) – This is a huge bugaboo if not done properly. If you have failed fall wheat acres that are subsequently replanted to spring wheat, please be sure to report these acres as failed fall acres and that FSA codes such acres accordingly. If misidentified as initially planted spring, it will affect the determination of prevented planting eligibility. Again, failed fall wheat acres reseeded to spring wheat acres are different than initially planted spring acres and spring acres prevented from planting.