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Prevented Planting Jitters

Something about prevented-planting coverage under federal crop insurance makes delegates to the National Corn Growers Association’s Corn Congress nervous.

The subject came up at the group’s first policy discussion Thursday at the Commodity Classic in Phoenix, Arizona. NCGA members from Iowa want to make prevent-plant payments less attractive by tying them to a slightly lower APH, but others from North Dakota, where planting conditions haven’t been exactly ideal in recent years, opposed it. 

One delegate from Minnesota, past NCGA president Gerald Tumbleson, worried about a public display of divisions within the group. 

Unlike most of the group’s resolutions, the Iowa proposal seemed headed for a digital voting that would have been posted on a screen in the group’s Sheraton Hotel meeting room.

“For the sake of the organization and the repercussions in the press, I’d like to not have that on the screen,” Tumbleson said, suggesting that the proposal be referred to the group’s policy committee meeting, which meets early tomorrow morning and isn’t open to the media.

The delegates agreed to send the proposal to the committee.

Here’s the idea that the Iowa delegation had offered:

“For production units that receive prevent-plant benefits under the federal crop insurance program, the assigned yield for that year should be in the range of 60% to 75% of the farm’s current APH for the crop involved.”

Chris Edgington of St. Ansgar, Iowa, spoke in favor of the change. Currently, land that gets prevent-plant payments doesn’t have that zero yield thrown into the average for its APH, or Actual Production History. 

Several delegates from the Midwest cited potential abuse of that insurance protection. One mentioned the farms in Illinois that seem to work bottomland just to get the payment before it’s flooded.

Edgington, who is president of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board, told the delegates that USDA’s Risk Management Agency has already identified high rates of prevent-plant payments on both corn and cotton and is considering lowering the payment level for prevent plant.

“We are in the RMA crosshairs,” Edgington said

Others argued against what some called micromanaging the RMA.

Kim Swenson, president of the North Dakota Corn Growers, said that northern tier states are already at a disadvantage when it comes to prevented planting. The RMA requirement that a field be planted at least once every four years should be enough incentive to prevent abuse, he said.

Bruce Peterson, president of the Minnesota Corn Growers, said that if the calculating the APH after prevented planting is change, that would require Congress opening up the farm law to make those changes.

“I’d just as soon keep Congress out of this,” he said.

An alternative approach might be for RMA to require that a field be planted two out of four years, for example, in order to be covered by crop insurance.

If the policy committee can come up with compromise language, the Corn Congress delegates may vote on the issue again when they meet on Saturday.



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