As the process of implementing the new farm bill moves ahead, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced changes to crop insurance programs to provide better protection from weather disaster, market volatility and other risk factors to ensure farmers aren’t wiped out by events beyond their control.

Vilsack also announced new support for beginning farmers that will make crop insurance more affordable and provide greater support when new farmers experience substantial losses. The announcements build on other recent USDA efforts to support beginning farmers.

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“Crop insurance is critical to the ongoing success of today’s farmers and ranchers and our agriculture economy. These improvements provide additional flexibility to ensure families do not lose everything due to events beyond their control,” said Vilsack.

“We’re also providing more support to beginning farmers and ranchers so that they can manage their risk effectively. We need to not only encourage new farmers to get into agriculture, we must ensure they’re not wiped out in their riskiest initial seasons so they can remain in agriculture for years to come.”

According to USDA, the changes in crop insurance provisions, “provide better options for beginning farmers, allow producers to have enterprise units for irrigated and non-irrigated crops, give farmers and ranchers the ability to purchase different levels of coverage for a variety of irrigation practices, provide guidance on conservation compliance, implement protections for native sod and provide adjustments to historical yields following significant disasters.”

The changes also exempt new farmers from paying the $300 administrative fee for catastrophic policies. New farmers’ premium support rates will also increase ten percentage points during their first five years of farming. Beginning farmers will also receive a greater yield adjustment when yields are below 60 percent of the applicable transitional yield. These incentives will be available for most insurance plans in the 2015 crop year and all plans by 2016.

The Agriculture Act of 2014 authorizes specific coverage benefits for beginning farmers and ranchers starting with the 2015 crop year.

USDA also said that beginning in the fall of 2014, producers who till native sod and plant an annual crop on that land will see reductions in their crop insurance benefits during the first four years. Native sod is acreage that has never been tilled, or land which a producer cannot substantiate has ever been tilled for the production of a crop. The provision applies to acreage in all counties in Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, and South Dakota that is greater than five acres per policy and is producing annual crops.

Additional flexibility for irrigated and non-irrigated enterprise units and coverage levels will be available in the spring of 2015. Additional information on implementation of these changes is available at the RMA website, www.rma.usda.gov.

The interim rule is available to the public at the Federal Register at www.ofr.gov/inspection.aspx.

More information is available on the RMA website at www.rma.usda.gov. Written comments on the rule can be submitted to www.regulations.gov by Sept. 2, 2014. All comments will be considered when the rule is made final.

For more information, visit www.usda.gov/farmbill.

The Federal Crop Insurance Board approved Risk Management Agency’s Whole-Farm Revenue Insurance policy in May. RMA will finalize the policy materials and expects to release the Whole-Farm Revenue Protection product to the public in late fall.