RMA may require pre-watering

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Feb 14, 2005
Farmers who are considering not watering before planting this spring as a way to save on production costs may want to think again.
USDA’s Risk Management Agency has changed the basic crop provisions rule for 2005, so that farmers who pre-watered in the past but decide not to this year could see their current actual production histories adjusted.
APH, used to determine crop insurance coverage levels, is an average based on four to 10 years of yield data.
The changes made to the basic crop provisions in August 2004 outline a number of situations where farmers could see their APH adjusted downward on all major crops except wheat.
DTN Agronomist Dan Davidson said it’s difficult to know how many farmers and number of acres will be affected by the new rules.
He said the RMA considers pre-watering to be a best-management practice and that most of that is done in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
“My own gut instinct is that it is in these three states and probably not much even in Kansas,” Davidson said. “Again the key is spring rainfall patterns and spring drying weather. In Texas they have a lot of drying before planting goes on because temps are warmer and that will dry out the soil enough that the crop will not germinate. So pre-watering will help get the surface to have enough moisture to germinate.”
He said many farmers believe there will be enough available surface moisture this upcoming planting season.
Dan Delano, a spokesperson for the crop insurance company Rain and Hail LLC in Omaha, said the new provisions were added by RMA as a result of the Fraud, Waste and Abuse Act of 2000.
He said farmers who usually pre-water will likely be required to use production records from a year when pre-watering was not done if they decide not to water.
Depending on the years selected, Delano said the APH may or may not be adjusted downward.
For example, let’s say a non-irrigated crop unit is typically watered once before planting but the crop is not watered prior to planting for the current crop year.
Delano said the approved APH yield would be adjusted to be consistent with other non-irrigated units where a crop had not been watered prior to planting previously. It could be limited to the non-irrigated transitional yield if other such units do not exist in a farmers APH database, according to RMA.
Delano also said farmers should be aware of another change in RMP’s rules regarding APH. He said the rules now say that if the actual yield reported is “excessive” for any crop year the approved yield will be adjusted.
Delano said the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. defines “excessive” yields as those of at least four times the county average for a given crop. If verifiable records are unavailable to support such a yield, the yield will be adjusted.
For example, he said an excessive yield could occur if a farmer decides to plant a crop on ground previously used as a feedlot, where the soil is typically more fertile as a result of animal waste.
Yield also will be adjusted if the approved APH yield is greater than 115 percent of the average of approved yields on record, or greater than 115 percent of the county transitional yield if a comparable database doesn’t exist.
Under the Federal Crop Insurance Act transitional yield is the maximum average production per acre or the equivalent measure that is assigned to acreage for a crop year.