Senators Push For Disaster Help - KXNet.com - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Senators Push For Disaster Help

Senators Push For Disaster Help

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Farmers across the state are getting the harvest going.

But for many, there is a lot less crop available this year - because so much didn't get planted at all.

It's called "prevent plant," and there is federal insurance to cover the situation.

But that insurance has been a confusing mess in recent years.

As Jim Olson reports, the federal agency in charge of the program has agreed to some important changes.

(Ryan Boen, Western Agency) ""

That's how insurance agent Ryan Boen describes the battle farmers are fighting with unplanted acres. The official term is prevent plant - and there were about 4.4 million acres of prevent plant in North Dakota in 2013. But there are uncertainties about what acres farmers will be able to collect federal insurance payments on.

(Ryan Boen, Western Agency) ""

Senators John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp joined Brandon Willis, the administrator of the USDA Risk Management Agency for meetings in the state to talk about changes designed to change the unknowns into certainty for future prevent plant situations.

(Sen. John Hoeven, -R- North Dakota) ""

Here's what farmers have been facing, dealing with abnormally wet spring weather in recent years. The USDA had said farmers could get prevent plant payments only if they had planted, insured, and harvested a crop in one of the three previous years. In other words, if they couldn't plant in 2013, they would had to have had a crop in either 2010, 2011, or 2012 to qualify. In some areas, that was a problem because of the current wet cycle. So the Risk Management Agency agreed to change that requirement to one year in the past four with a crop.

(Sen. John Hoeven, -R- North Dakota) ""

But there was another key rule that caused problems - and it was related to one single word in the rules - "normal." The rules said the one in three or four years where a crop had been planted and harvested had to be a "normal" year.

(Sen. John Hoeven, -R- North Dakota) ""

That "normal" year requirement was being used to disallow payments to farmers in some cases. For example, take the farmer unable to plant in 2013. Chances are good he also couldn't plant in 2010 and 2011 - very wet years. But he did get a crop in 2012. The USDA did not classify 2012 as a "normal" year in some areas because it was so dry. Thus, the farmer was denied prevent plant payment since he had no crops in the past three years. That word "normal" has been stricken from the rules.

(Sen. John Hoeven, -R- North Dakota) ""

(Ryan Boen, Western Agency) ""

These changes take effect next year - but what about this year and the 4.4 million acres of prevent plant in North Dakota? The senators say they want to know if any farmer is denied payment if he believes he deserves it so they can try to help right now, but they have to do it within most of the old rules.

(Sen. John Hoeven, -R- North Dakota) ""

Jim Olson, KX News.

Senators Hoeven and Heitkamp joined Administrator Willis for meetings on the topic in both Minot and Grand Forks today.

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