Christy Collins, County Executive Director of the Belmont/Monroe Farm Service Agency (FSA), reminds farmers that the application closing date to sign up for 2017 Non-Insured Assistance Program (NAP) coverage for spring planted crops is March 15. The deadline includes coverage for Forage Sorghum, Oats, Potatoes, Soybeans, Sunflowers, and all Spring Planted Specialty Crops Grown for Food.

The NAP program is designed to cover losses due to damaging weather conditions, if all program prescribed eligibility requirements are met. Losses are generally determined by the percentage of loss compared to the producer's actual yield history.

Greater protection is now available from what has been offered with traditional Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program for crops that are ineligible for federal crop insurance. The new options, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provide greater coverage for losses when natural disasters affect specialty crops such as vegetables, fruits, mushrooms, floriculture, ornamental nursery, aquaculture, turf grass, ginseng, honey, syrup, and energy crops. It also provides greater coverage for crops such as hay or other crops for which crop insurance is not available.

Previously, the program offered coverage at 55 percent of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50 percent of expected production. Producers can now choose higher levels of coverage, up to 65 percent of their expected production at 100 percent of the average market price.

The expanded protection will be especially helpful to beginning and traditionally underserved producers, as well as farmers with limited resources, who will receive fee waivers and premium reductions for expanded coverage. More crops are now eligible for the program, including expanded aquaculture production practices, and sweet and biomass sorghum. For the first time, a range of crops used to produce bioenergy will be eligible as well.

"Producers interested in obtaining coverage on these crops should make an appointment as soon as possible to complete an application for their 2017 acres," said Collins. The administrative fee is $250 per crop, not to exceed $750 per county. The premium for buyup coverage is calculated using a formula that includes the number of acres of the crop, the producer's approved yield, coverage level chosen, etc.

Limited resource and socially disadvantaged producers may have the fees waived.

Limited resource farmer or rancher means a farmer or rancher is both of the following:

A producer whose direct or indirect gross farm sales do not exceed the amount determined annually in each of the 2 calendar years that precede the complete tax year before the relevant program year adjusted upwards in later years for any general inflation

A producer whose total household income was at or below the national poverty level for a family of 4 in each of the same 2 calendar years that precede the complete tax year before the relevant program year adjusted upwards in later years for any general inflation.

Socially Disadvantaged farmer or rancher means a farmer or rancher who is a member of a group whose members have been subject to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities. Groups include American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians or Asian Americans, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and women.

Producers are reminded that NAP coverage is only available for crops where coverage is not available under the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIC). In Belmont County, corn is the only crop that is covered by FCIC insurance, and in Monroe County, corn and oats are the only crops eligible for FCIC coverage.

"Producers who have NAP coverage currently, or who are interested in coverage, need to keep an accurate record of their production," said Collins. "A report of the actual yield is key in maintaining a NAP yield that reflects their crops capabilities." Collins encourages farmers to plan ahead for crop losses.

For more information, contact the Belmont/Monroe FSA office at 740-425-2300 or toll free from the 740 area code, at 800-818-7645. Option 2 will access the FSA office.