This spring's unusually warm and dry weather during March and early April has allowed crop producers in Iowa to start field work earlier than can be remembered by most people. Some corn and soybeans have already been planted in Iowa—a month ahead of normal. Not a lot of acres have been planted, but there have been some.
"Getting an early start on tillage and planting reduces the risk of getting behind schedule later on in the spring, if an extended period of rainy weather occurs. But getting started early also has its risks," points out William Edwards, an Iowa State University Extension farm business economist.
The Risk Management Agency of USDA, the agency that administers the federal crop insurance program, has some specific rules about early planted crops with regard to maintaining eligibility for crop insurance coverage. For example, for each insurable crop, RMA has set an "early planting date." The earliest planting dates allowed for counties in the state of Iowa are April 11 for corn and April 21 for soybeans. Dates will vary in other states, and sometimes by county within a state. But for Iowa the early planting dates are April 11 for corn and April 21 for soybeans.
Corn planted before April 11 and beans before April 21 aren't eligible for replant coverage
"Acres planted before these dates in Iowa are no longer eligible for replant coverage payments should it be necessary to replant them," says Edwards. "The maximum replant payments each year are equal to 8 bushels of corn and 3 bushels of soybeans, times the RMA projected price for that year, which is the price used to establish the value of the insurance guarantees that the producer purchases." For 2012 the projected prices are $5.68 per bushel for corn and $12.55 for soybeans, so the maximum replant payments are $45.44 and $37.65 per acre, respectively.
That's what you would be giving up if you plant corn before April 11 and soybeans before April 21—and then run into a freeze or hail or some other kind of crop killing calamity later, and end up having to replant.
"Any acres planted before these earliest planting dates of April 11 and
April 21 lose replant coverage, even if the entire farm or insurance unit has not been planted," says Edwards. "However, early planting does not affect a producer's normal yield guarantee or revenue insurance guarantee. You still have that coverage. That guarantee is still in effect, and whether or not you collect any indemnity payments will depend on the final harvested yield. Normal good crop management practices must still be followed, however, including replanting of crops if the potential yield increase is enough to offset the costs of replanting."
If you plant an insured crop, records must be kept of planting date information
Records of which crops are planted in which field and the dates they are planted in each field should be kept. Then, when all of your acres are planted, you'll have the information for crop insurance purposes. You'll also need that information to report your planted acreage to your county FSA office. The information is for Form 578, the annual FSA planted acreage report.
"Everyone who plants an insured crop should be keeping track of what day they planted each field and how many acres they planted," says Edwards. "That information has to be reported by farmers on the FSA 578 form—the annual acreage report you submit to your county FSA office. You are documenting when you planted the crops."
If you have any questions about your crop insurance coverage, always check with your local crop insurance agent.