The planting deadline for insured wheat is moving in fast, and all over the Plains people are still waiting for a rain so they can plant. If you've been staring at the sky and haven't seen a cloud for days, here's where the news gets worse: If you miss your crop insurance deadline, you can't make any prevented planting claims because of drought.
Based on the RMA's guidelines on prevented planting resulting from drought conditions, you must have insufficient soil moisture for germination of seed on the final planting date.
No kidding? That's what everyone's been losing sleep over for the past month! But RMA (USDA's Risk Management Agency) also slips this note under the door: "To find out if your crop can be insured for prevented planting in your county, contact your insurance agent."
So I called Tom Bennett, our local insurance agent in Healy, Kansas. Tom says the prevented planting clause is a bit of a strange creature. Even though the crop may not germinate immediately because of drought, farmers can still plant their wheat ahead of the planting date – which for us in Lane County, Kansas, is Oct. 20 – and then wait for a rain to germinate the seed later. Even under those conditions, a farmer can still produce a decent crop.
Only under maybe the most extreme examples of drought, such as the Dirty Thirties, Tom adds, would farmers in our part of the Plains have a chance at getting paid for prevented planting. Otherwise, it's a long shot.
So what is the point of having compensation for prevented planting anyway?
According to Tom, the prevented planted clause is mostly for people further east or in Minnesota who can't plant because of excessive rains or floods. "I don't know that we'll ever see a time when we get paid for prevented planting out here in western Kansas," Tom says.
But there is some good news if you're still waiting to plant or have already missed your deadline – you still have 15 days to get your wheat in the ground without completely losing all your coverage.
For every day after your deadline, Tom says, you lose 1%. By the 15th day after the deadline, your coverage is 85%. After that, coverage falls to zero.
And if it turns out we're done for precip for the rest of the year and your crop crashes and burns, here's the other good news. Your base price for collection is probably fairly decent. Here in Lane County, it's $7.14.
But then again, Tom, who is a farmer himself, says it doesn't take much for wheat to come back. "We may get some rain and snow and most all of this will pop right up. Wheat's a resilient crop. It can do a lot."
With only a 0-10% chance of rain in the forecast for the next 10 days, we're crossing our fingers. Otherwise, Tom, we'll be giving you a call in the spring!