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SURE participation deadlines approaching fast

Agriculture.com Staff 09/05/2008 @ 1:46pm

If harvest is delayed a week or two this year and you can put off preparations a few days, that may not be all bad. It will give you time to wrestle with decisions that will qualify your farm for permanent disaster coverage for 2008 and 2009 crops.

September 16 is the deadline for paying a "buy-in fee" for any crops that you didn't insure in 2008 if you want to be covered by the new SURE (Supplemental Revenue Assistance) program.

And, if you want to be covered by SURE in 2009, September 30 is the deadline to buy crop insurance for fall-planted crops like winter wheat.

There was a time when farmers could get federal disaster payments without having crop insurance. That's no longer the case. To be eligible, every crop produced on a farm has to either be covered by crop insurance, or by USDA's NAP program for uninsured crops.

In the past, USDA's Non-insured Assistance Program (NAP) could be ignored by most farmers who raise crops like corn and soybeans. That's because most don't raise the large amounts of fruits, vegetables, and other crops not covered by crop insurance. USDA makes NAP available for those crops, as well as forages such as alfalfa and forage sorghum. When losses exceed 50%, NAP makes payments at 55% of the crop’s established value.

Because the farm bill was passed months after the deadline for buying crop insurance, producers this year can pay a one-time buy-in fee of $100 for uninsured crops that would make them eligible for any SURE payments on 2008 crops.

To get a SURE payment, you have to be in or next to a county declared a disaster area, or have a 50% loss on all of your farm's crops. One of the factors for a county disaster declaration is yields that are 30% below the county norm.

Unfortunately, the USDA isn't likely to have rules out before the September 16 deadline to buy into SURE for 2008. Nor is it likely that farmers will know if their county will get a disaster declaration for the Agriculture Secretary before then, either.

In Iowa, county emergency board recommendations for disaster declarations were submitted in early August, but it may be a couple of weeks yet before there's an announcement of disaster counties, says Kevin McClure, who heads production adjustment for the Iowa office of the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

If harvest is delayed a week or two this year and you can put off preparations a few days, that may not be all bad. It will give you time to wrestle with decisions that will qualify your farm for permanent disaster coverage for 2008 and 2009 crops.

And there are a lot of unanswered questions about how SURE will really work. Your revenue guarantee for SURE is based on the level of crop insurance you buy and your APH (Actual Production History). The law is unclear about how SURE will work for farmers with group risk policies or revenue products like Crop Revenue Coverage or Revenue Assurance with the Harvest Price Option.

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