New USDA Crop Insurance Options for Small and Specialty Producers

We are so pleased to announce that USDA has added some new options for crop insurance for farmers across the country. 

Why is Crop Insurance Important?

Crop Insurance is a long standing institution for commodity farmers and those using mono-cropping systems on large acreage. This is a way to mitigate the inherent risk of farming and give farmers a cushion to absorb the impact of a natural disaster, crop failure, or other derailing events that could put the season in jeopardy. Because this hasn’t been widely available to smaller and more locally focused farmers, these categories were put at a disadvantage. When you don’t have the option to insure your production, one bad season could put you out of farming. As part of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, we have supported nationwide efforts to expand crop insurance options for our farmers for years. These new changes are part of a years-long campaign to expand options in  the Whole Farm Revenue Protection realm and create new options for farmers. These changes are outlined and fleshed out in the recommendations of Feasibility of insuring local food production – Final Research Report, a report commissioned by the USDA with an independent consulting firm to look into the feasibility and economic impact of insuring small and diversified producers who sell through local food system channels. 

This work has resulted in a couple of changes for the 2022 insurance year:

New Micro Farm Policy Available

There is a whole new option for small farms. The Micro Farm policy is a new addition to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program available to farmers with $100,000 or less in revenue. This includes both livestock and crops, and represents the whole farm business (including value added products!) except for any timber, forest, and forest products; and animals for sport, show, or pets, or any non-agricultural products (souvenirs at the farm stand, t-shirts, etc.). All coverage levels are available for this plan (50-85%). This plan’s coverage is not based on the yields, but rather on reported whole farm revenue. All applicants need to provide a Whole Farm History Report which must include ​​3 years of Schedule F tax forms for your farm, which means that your farm must be in its 4th year of production to take advantage of this new policy. Read More about the Micro-Farm Policy Here

Changes to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection Program

The USDA also announced some changes to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program late in 2021 for the 2022 insurance year. With a focus on expanding options for organic producers, the changes include increasing farm operation growth limits for organic producers to the higher of $500,000 or 35% over the five-year average allowable income, and to allowing a producer to report acreage as certified organic, or as acreage in transition to organic, when the producer has requested an organic certification by the acreage reporting date.  Read more about the new changes in the 2022 Handbook. This insurance option is for larger, but still diversified and/or specialty (organic, etc.) farms who do not rely on commodity markets for pricing their products. This is usually organic producers (who get a premium for their crops), or larger diversified farms who are still using local food system distribution channels. Check out the most recent fact sheet from USDA here.

How to Get Crop Insurance

The first thing to do is to check your county’s sales deadline for crop insurance. You can do that here by selecting your county and desired insurance option (Micro Farm: 9110, or Whole Farm Revenue Protection: 0076) and your county, then clicking the dates tab on the search result. By county, the deadline could be January 31, February 28, or March 15.

Then you would need to find an agent to work with in your area. These USDA policies are available in all counties of all 50 states, but you can only access them through a USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) Affiliated Insurance Agent.  You can find ones near you using this tool. If you are having trouble finding an agent to work with, you can always contact your RMA regional office. Find your regional office contact info here.

Once you have your appointment set up, confirm what documentation you need to provide to your agent. The basics would be:

  • Your last 3 years of Schedule F tax forms (if you have other types of taxes for your farm business or if you are a nonprofit or tribal entity, speak to your agent) and documentation that they were accepted by the IRS
  • Farm Operation Report documentation including possible access to records pertaining to:
    • (1) planting, replanting, inputs, production, harvest, storage, sale, shipment, and disposition of the insured commodities;
    • (2) insurable, insured, and uninsured acres;
    • (3) facilities;
    • (4) allowable revenue and allowable expenses (if applicable) stated on farm tax forms and supporting documents;
    • (5) value of any post-production operations for insured commodities (if applicable);
    • (6) documentation supporting beginning and ending inventories, and accounts payable, receivable, and prepaid expenses (if applicable);
    • (7) ownership, share, lease, contract agreement, or other agreements that are applicable to the insured commodities; and
    • (8) mediation, arbitration, and litigation records related to the insured and insured commodities.

Make sure to confirm what you need to bring with you to the appointment and enjoy peace of mind from your new crop insurance!