Hoeven Hosts RMA Administrator in North Dakota to Outline New Prevented Planting Rules

Hoeven, Heitkamp, North Dakota Ag Leaders Meet with RMA to Ensure Workable Rules

Grand Forks, N.D. – Senator John Hoeven today convened roundtables in Grand Forks and Minot with Risk Management Agency (RMA) Administrator Brandon Willis to clarify new rules for the prevented planting crop insurance program. Hoeven was joined by Senator Heidi Heitkamp and representatives from North Dakota’s agriculture groups to continue working to make the prevented planting program workable for North Dakota producers.

“We welcome Administrator Willis back to North Dakota today to hear from our state’s agriculture leaders,” said Hoeven. “We’ve been working to get the RMA to make changes so our producers have clear and workable rules to qualify for the prevented planting program. North Dakota producers faced unnecessary hurdles and ambiguity in the program this year. We’ve been working to provide the necessary clarifications and modifications to ensure that prevented planting provides the necessary coverage for our producers.”

“Today Administrator Willis was able to hear directly from North Dakota producers about the serious problems they are facing,” said Heitkamp. “And Administrator Willis was able to explain to our growers exactly how the recently announced changes to prevented planting crop insurance rules will work. Crop insurance helps our food producers balance the risks that come from farming by enabling our farmers to survive bad seasons. They deserve to know they can rely on the insurance coverage they purchased, and that's why I pushed Administrator Willis to remove ambiguity in the rules to help our farmers thrive.”

Yesterday, the RMA released new rules to govern the program effective for the 2014 crop year and beyond, including the following:

  • Eliminates the “normal weather” provision to allow a producer who plants and harvests a crop one out of four years, regardless of the weather situation, to be eligible for prevented plant. The previous rules definition of “normal weather conditions” was a matter of subjective interpretation, leaving growers uncertain about how they could use those years to qualify for prevented plant insurance.
  • Removes of a provision disqualifying land for prevented planting if marsh vegetation, such as a single cattail, is found on it.
  • Clarifies that if a producer is unable to plant and harvest on certain acreage in one of the four most recent crop years, the producer will need to demonstrate the land is farmable by planting and harvesting (or incurring an insurable loss other than for excess moisture) two years in a row.

In North Dakota this year, producers are seeking coverage under prevented planting crop insurance due to excessively high moisture combined with cold weather and late snowfalls in parts of the state that prevented or delayed planting. RMA’s original rules for prevented planting insurance, however, require that covered acreage must have a crop planted and harvested in 1 of the previous 4 years. Growers were concerned that the RMA will not apply the 1 in 4 rule to acreage that was planted in 2012, because the agency claims that year was abnormally dry statewide.

Following pressure from North Dakota leaders, RMA agreed that 2012 won’t automatically be considered an abnormally dry year for the purpose of the 1 in 4 rule, which would disqualify some producers from obtaining prevented planting coverage. Growers will have to work with their insurers on a case-by-case basis to make the determination.

Earlier this spring, Hoeven brought Willis to Fargo and Bismarck to meet with North Dakota agriculture groups to press for a clarification and provide input on prevented planting rules. Hoeven also successfully included an amendment in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations bill requiring the agency to simplify the provisions to make them more predictable to producers and reflective of local conditions.

In the Spring, Senator Heitkamp requested clarification from RMA regarding an across-the-board application of the “normal weather clause” in North Dakota, which could have resulted in coverage being denied to producers that should qualify. In response to these concerns, RMA assured Senator Heitkamp that prevented plant claims would be considered on a case-by-case basis by approved insurance providers. Additionally, to urge a change in prevented plant policy, Heitkamp brought together North Dakota producers and the USDA. In July, Heitkamp hosted Michael Scuse, the No. 2 official at USDA, in Bismarck to hear directly from North Dakota farmers.