Organic crop insurance explained

By JOHN BERRY

Agricultural marketing educator, ag entrepreneurship, Penn State Extension

Do you understand crop insurance for organic farming practices?

Organic farming has become one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture. Also, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency recognizes organic farming practices as good farming practices and continues to move forward in improving crop insurance coverage for organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production, so they will have viable and effective risk management options available.

RMA currently provides coverage for: (1) Certified organic acreage; (2) Transitional acreage (acreage on which organic farming practices are being followed that does not yet qualify to be designated as certified organic acreage); and (3) Buffer zone acreage.

What’s covered?

Covered perils are drought, excess moisture, freeze, hail, prevented planting, insect damage, disease, and weeds — if recognized organic farming practices fail to provide an effective control method that may result in losses.

Please note, contamination by application or drift of prohibited substances onto organic, transitional, or buffer zone acreage is not an insured peril. If any acreage qualified as certified organic acreage or transitional acreage on the acreage reporting date, such acreage (even if such certification is subsequently revoked by the certifying agent or the certifying agent no longer considers the acreage as transitional acreage for the remainder of the crop year), that acreage will remain insured under the reported practice for which it qualified at the time the acreage was reported.

Any loss due to failure to comply with the organic standards is considered an uninsured loss.Reporting Acreage?

On the date you report acreage, you must have:

  1. For certified organic acreage, a current organic plan and recent written certification (certificate) in effect from a certifying agent.
  2. For transitional acreage, a certificate or written documentation from a certifying agent indicating that an organic plan is in effect. Acreage transitioning to a certified organic farming practice without an organic certificate or written documentation from a certifying agency must be insured under the conventional farming practice.
  3. For both certified and transitional acreage, records from the certifying agent showing the specific location of each field of certified organic, transitional, buffer zone and acreage maintained and not maintained under organic farming practices.

Price elections, insurance dollar amounts, and premiums separate organic price elections, projected prices, and harvest prices are currently available for eight crops: Cotton, corn, soybeans, processing tomatoes, avocadoes, and stonefruit crops; and fresh freestone peaches, fresh nectarines, and plums in California.

For all other crops, the price elections, insurance amounts, projected prices, and harvest prices that apply to both certified organic and transitional crops are the price elections, insurance amounts, projected prices, and harvest prices RMA publishes for the crop grown using conventional means for the current crop year.

The Price Discovery Tool is available under the RMA “Information Browser” at www.rma.usda.gov/tools/.

New price option

Beginning with the 2014 crop year, new contract price options will be available to organic producers who grow crops under guaranteed contracts.You can choose to use the prices established in those contracts as your “price election” in place of the RMA-issued prices when buying crop insurance.

This contract price option allows organic producers who receive a contract price for your crop to get a crop insurance guarantee that is more reflective of the actual value of your crop.

You will also have the ability to use your personal contract price as your price election or to choose existing crop insurance price elections where this option is available.

New organic elections

All crops are being evaluated for establishing organic prices for the 2014 crop year. However, 6 to 10 crops have emerged as the most promising for new organic price elections.

These are apricots, apples, blueberries, oats, mint, millet, and others. In some cases, premium organic price elections will only be available in certain locations and for certain types, depending on data availability.

Continued expansion of premium organic price elections is planned; however, the limiting factor is data availability. Contact crop insurance agents.

You should contact your crop insurance agent for more information about this new option. You should talk to your crop insurance agent to get specific information and deadlines.

To find a list of crop insurance agents, see www.rma.usda.gov/tools/agent.html. For a list of insurable crops, see www.rma.usda.gov/policies/.

More information on RMA’s Organic Crop Insurance Program can be found on RMA’s website at www.rma.usda.gov/news/currentissues/organics/.

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