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USDA Expands Insurance Options for Specialty and Organic Growers

Dan Crop Insurance, Economy, Organic, Specialty Crops, USDA-RMA

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Senior farmer and young business woman standing in sunflower field and reading insurance contract.
Image by budabar/DepositPhotos

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced it is expanding crop insurance options for specialty and organic growers beginning with the 2025 crop year.

The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) is expanding coverage options by allowing enterprise units by organic farming practice, adding enterprise unit eligibility for several crops, and making additional policy updates. This is the first of several announcements this summer, which will include the expansion of the shellfish policy and new coverage for grape growers in the West and beyond. These expansions and other improvements build on other recent RMA efforts to better serve specialty crop producers and reach a broader group of producers.?

These are the changes being made beginning with the 2025 crop year😕

  • Enterprise and Optional Units:
    • Expand Enterprise Units (EU) to almonds, apples, avocado (California), citrus (Arizona, California, and Texas), figs, macadamia nuts, pears, prunes, and walnuts.?
    • Allow non-contiguous parcels of land that qualify for Optional Units (OU) to also qualify for EU.?
    • Allow EUs by organic farming practice for alfalfa seed, almonds, apples, avocado (California), cabbage, canola, citrus (Arizona, California and Texas), coarse grains, cotton, ELS cotton, dry beans, dry peas, figs, fresh market tomatoes, forage production, grass seed, macadamia nuts, millet, mint, mustard, pears, potatoes (northern, central, and southern), processing tomatoes, prunes, safflower, small grains, sunflower seed, and walnuts.??
    • Expand OUs by organic practice to all remaining crops where OUs are available, and the organic practice is insurable.

These revisions come through the Expanding Options for Specialty and Organic Growers Final Rule published by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). This Final Rule will update the Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions, Area Risk Protection Insurance Basic Provisions, and includes changes to individual Crop Provisions. The enterprise unit availability will continue to be rolled out throughout the year with each crop’s contract change date and RMA will continue to evaluate expanding EUs to additional crops.?

Additional changes in the June 30 Final Rule include:?

  • New Breaking Acreage:?
    • Reduce administrative burdens on growers and the delivery system by removing written agreement requirements on new breaking acreage.??
    • Reduce coverage penalties on perennial specialty crop producers and producers of intensively managed crops, such as alfalfa, when they move to row crop production.?This allows for a seamless transition without losing crop insurance coverage.?
  • Assignment of Indemnity: Provide flexibility for an indemnity payment to be issued via automated clearing house (ACH) or other electronic means when these methods do not allow for multiple payees. ?
  • Good Farming Practices (GFP): Streamline and shorten the FCIC GFP reconsideration process by closing the administrative file following FCIC’s initial GFP determination. ?
  • Double Cropping and Annual Forage: Clarify a producer must prove insurance history for the annual forage crop and meet the current double cropping requirements to receive a full prevented planting payment.?

RMA continues to explore ways to improve risk management tools for specialty crop producers and will be announcing additional program enhancements later this summer. Some of those improvements include:

  • Expanding the Shellfish Program to an additional 18 counties in seven states. Additional modifications include allowing insurance on seeds initially purchased smaller than 4 mm, allowing producers to use existing records for coverage in adjacent program counties, and allowing alternative yield procedures.??
  • Piloting the Fire Insurance Protection – Smoke Index (FIP-SI) crop insurance program for grapes in California for the 2025 crop year. The pilot program is an index-based endorsement to the Actual Production History (APH) Grape policy that provides additional protection against smoke damage and covers the liability between the APH policy’s coverage level and 95%.?
  • Expanding the Enhanced Coverage Option (ECO) to walnuts and citrus crops and increasing premium support to be consistent with the Supplemental Coverage Option.?
  • Releasing new Organic Practice Guidelines to producers for the 2025 crop year. These guidelines are to help producers report planted or perennial acreage insured under a certified organic or transitional practice.?

Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents. Learn by contacting your RMA Regional Office, or by clicking here.