Forage industry folks working to improve federal crop insurance products for alfalfa were encouraged last month by USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). The agency is requesting input from growers and other industry stakeholders on how to structure a program that would provide protection from weather-related disasters and from fluctuations in quality and revenue.

“It’s a very positive development, and we’re pleased that the administration has decided to make this a priority,” says Beth Nelson, president of the National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance (NAFA). The industry group is pushing to make crop insurance products for alfalfa somewhat comparable to those offered for other major crops. “This will provide a much-needed safety net for alfalfa producers,” she adds.

Only about 10% of the country’s alfalfa acreage is enrolled in Forage Production APH, the current crop insurance program for alfalfa. That contrasts sharply with corn, soybean and wheat insurance program enrollments, which average more than 80% participation.

Critics of Forage Production APH contend that few producers participate because:

• coverage isn’t available in all states or in all counties in the states where it is offered, and

• insurance claim payouts tend to be too low to justify premium costs.

They also suggest that the decline in U.S. alfalfa acreage – more than 20% in the last decade – can, in part, be attributed to some ag lenders. Producers were reportedly encouraged to plant program crops instead of alfalfa because there is no safety net for the crop.

“The current program for forages is simply inadequate,” says Nelson.

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The deadline for submitting comments to RMA is Dec. 20. The agency would like people’s opinions on the potential market and production impacts of a new program and suggestions on what types of insurance would be most suitable for alfalfa. RMA is also interested in information on whether private sector insurance products covering forage production are available.

NAFA is collecting comments and will submit a comprehensive document to RMA. “It’s important for producers to make their voices heard on this,” says Nelson. “We’ve been meeting with (the agency) on this for several years, and we want to continue that as new insurance products are being delivered.”

Send comments to NAFA at Those who prefer to submit remarks to RMA directly can email or mail them to USDA/RMA/APDD, Beacon Facility Stop 0812, P.O. Box 419205, Kansas City, MO 64141-6205.

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