It’s no secret that weeks of heavy rain and snow melt have wreaked havoc with farm operations across the Midwest this spring. Sixty tornadoes hit the lower plains last weekend alone, and rivers in some areas are cresting at levels not seen since the catastrophic floods of 1993. April and May are prime planting months for major row crops throughout the region, and all this water – and resulting mud – have made it impossible for thousands of farmers to get tractors into the fields. This year, crops normally planted in April may not get planted until mid-to-late May if at all.
The risks of planting a crop late can be substantial. Crops take a full summer season to properly grow and mature. A three-week delay in planting can cause a three-week delay in harvest, with all the attendant dangers of early-autumn frost and diminished yields. What some growers may not know, however, is that late planting also can affect their coverage under FCIC crop insurance.
Every FCIC policy, be it for corn, soybeans, wheat, sugar beets, cotton, so on, contains a “final planting date,” which is the last date the crop can be planted and receive full FCIC coverage. These “final planting dates” vary by state and county, but generally fall in mid-to-late May. If a grower plants their crop after the final planting date, they can still purchase FCIC insurance, but their coverage guarantee will be reduced by one percent per day for each day after the “final planting date.” If the delay exceeds 25 days, the so-called end of the “late planting period,” then coverage is limited even further.
These day-by-day coverage reductions are designed to reflect the increasing underwriting risk for late-planted crops and are built into the FCIC premium rates. The news isn’t all negative, though. Since crop insurance premium costs are tied to production guarantees, a farmer who plants late and receives a discounted coverage will also pay a proportionately lower premium. And if rains persist, making it impossible to plant the crop at all, then the farmer can file a “prevented planting” clam under their policy.
Growers in these rain-affected areas should contact their crop insurance agent to make sure they know the “final planting dates” in their county, the records they must keep, and the steps needed to file a claim in need be. Maybe of these have tight deadlines that must be followed.
And if you have questions or need legal advice or representation, please contact us at OFW Law.