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Lose Future Insurance by June 1?

June 1, another vital USDA deadline, looms ahead for a few farmers — those who may not meet the new conservation compliance requirements for crop insurance that were added to the 2014 Farm Bill. 

That’s the deadline to certify that you meet USDA requirements for highly erodible land conservation and wetland conservation. 

This doesn’t affect nearly all farmers in Corn Belt states and other major crop production areas. If you’ve been getting commodity program payments or participate in conservation programs, you should already have a form AD-1026 on file at your local Farm Service Agency office. You’re likely in compliance. 

But if you’ve been purchasing crop insurance, have never set foot in a USDA service center, and miss the June 1 deadline, you could be buying crop insurance at a much higher premium cost next year.

“If you don’t have a 1026 filed by that deadline this year, you’re not going to get the insurance subsidies for the 2016 crop year,” said John Whitaker, state executive director for FSA in Iowa. 

Whitaker’s staff have been poring over lists of names from USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which oversees crop insurance programs, and FSA, which runs commodity programs. When a name on the RMA list pops up that isn’t on the FSA list, his county employees are calling farmers and landowners to make sure they know about the deadline.

Jonathan Coppess, a farm bill expert at the University of Illinois agricultural economics department, thinks the outreach by the Iowa FSA is a great thing, but he reminds growers that it’s your responsibility to sign the form.

“If you have a question about whether you have the form on file, the next rainy day, if you haven’t been to the FSA, you should go in or check in,” he told Wednesday.

Coppess, an attorney who was chief counsel for the Senate Agriculture Committee during the drafting of the 2014 farm bill, has written extensively about the law for Farmdoc Daily since joining the University of Illinois faculty. You can find his most recent posting on conservation compliance here.

Filling out the short one-page form is just the start of what can be a longer process, but “it’s a very important deadline,” Coppess says.

Farmers with highly erodible land who haven’t been in farm programs but are now subject to conservation compliance will have up to five “reinsurance years” to comply with a conservation plan developed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. (The reinsurance year starts July 1.) They’re given that much time because it could take several years to install terraces or other practices, Coppess said. And, under the law, you could have more time if NRCS hasn’t been able to complete a conservation plan.

Farmers are not given as much time to meet wetlands requirements, but, again, if NRCS is behind schedule on wetlands determinations — a big problem in North Dakota — they can’t be denied insurance premium subsidies. That's the case if they filled out form AD-1026.

In a letter sent Wednesday, North Dakota’s Senator Heidi Heitkamp is urging U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to provide more clarity for North Dakota farmers by better defining the time period that USDA sets for itself to review wetland determinations related to conservation compliance.

Still, the bottom line is that if you fill out form AD-1026 by June 1, “a farmer can’t lose premium subsidies because NRCS or FSA is processing paperwork,” Coppess said. 

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