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By Jonathan Knutson, Forum News Service, Published March 12 2013

Key crop insurance deadline March 15

This is crunch time for crop insurance agents.

Friday is the deadline for purchasing or modifying crop insurance for most spring-planted crops. To meet the deadline, crop insurance agents have been working long days and nights.

“It gets pretty chaotic,” said Dan Weber, a Casselton, N.D., insurance agent.

Crop insurance agents, working with their clients who farm, have a narrow window in which to make important decisions about insuring 2013 crops.

In early March, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency released the prices at which area farmers can insure most of their 2013 crops under federally subsidized revenue and yield production policies.

The crop insurance prices are based on market prices in February.

Typically, farmers wait until the prices are announced before they begin making their final decisions on 2013 crop insurance.

Here are the 2013 prices in the Upper Midwest for the region’s three major crops:

Corn: $5.65 per bushel, down from $5.68 per bushel a year ago. The record price was $6.01 per bushel in 2011, according to Andy Swenson, North Dakota State University Extension Service farm management specialist.

Corn prices dipped in the second half of February this year, which brought down the 2013 crop insurance price for corn, Weber said.

Wheat: $8.44 per bushel, up from $7.84 per bushel a year ago. The record price was $11.11 per bushel in 2008, Swenson said.

Soybeans: $12.87 per bushel, up from $12.55 per bushel a year ago. The record price was $13.49 in 2011, Swenson said.

The 2013 prices for corn, wheat and soybeans are all the third-highest on record, Swenson said.

The prices are high enough to provide a relatively strong safety net for producers, although rising expenses have weakened the safety net somewhat, he said.

Sooner is better

Weber says he understands why farmers wait as long as possible to finalize their crop insurance decisions.

Nonetheless, the first two weeks of March are hectic for crop insurance agents, said Steve Becher, executive director of the Professional Insurance Agents of North Dakota.

Agents “are burning the candle at both ends. But there are only so many hours in the day,” he said.

Crop insurance can be complex, but agents generally have a good understanding of what’s involved, Swenson said.

In general, crop insurance is a valuable risk management tool that farmers should consider using, he says.

At one time, ag producers generally insured 65 percent of their crop. Their rate has risen to 70 percent to 75 percent, as farmers increasingly recognize that crop insurance helps them manage risk, Swenson said.