USDA grants flexibility on Prevented Plant acres for emergency forage production in Michigan

Farmers reeling from one of Michigan’s wettest periods on record are now permitted to hay, graze or chop desperately needed forages grown on prevented plant fields, with harvest now allowed starting Sept. 1 — a full two months earlier than the previous Nov. 1 date restriction.

The announcement Thursday from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is welcome news to Michigan farmers who’ve only had 3.5 days of proper fieldwork conditions since June 9. According to the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, the 2019 final haying and grazing date changed from Nov. 1 to Sept. 1 because flooding and excess rainfall affected farmers’ forage production this spring.

Leading up to the move, 577 Michigan Farm Bureau members emailed U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue stressing the severity of the weather situation and its impact on Michigan farms. Updated figures indicate only 63 percent of the state’s corn crop had been planted, down from 88 percent on the same date in 2018, and less than half of the soybean crop had been planted.

Farm Bureau members’ responses worked, said Tuscola County farmer Carl Bednarski, who is also president of the Michigan Farm Bureau.

“We appreciate USDA’s quick and timely response to our farmers’ needs,” Bednarski said. “More than 570 Michigan Farm Bureau members contacted U.S. Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue. Their efforts were not in vain — Michigan farmers affected by flooding and excess rainfall are now permitted to hay, graze or chop emergency forages fields earlier than Nov. 1, which will allow for higher quality feed and additional forage supplies.”

RMA has determined that silage, haylage and baleage should be treated in the same manner as haying and grazing for 2019. Producers can hay, graze or cut cover crops for silage, haylage or baleage on prevented plant acres on or after Sept. 1 and still maintain eligibility for their full 2019 prevented planting indemnity. The adjustments are made for 2019 only.

“We recognize farmers were greatly impacted by some of the unprecedented flooding and excessive rain this spring, and we made this one-year adjustment to help farmers with the tough decisions they are facing this year,” Under Secretary for Farm Production and Conservation Bill Northey said in a statement. “This change will make good stewardship of the land easier to accomplish while also providing an opportunity to ensure quality forage is available for livestock this fall.”

According to Ernie Birchmeier, livestock and dairy specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau, the change is essential relief for farmers who “need to produce forage for the dairy and beef herds and haven’t been able to get crops planted due to the unprecedented wet spring.”

“We appreciate the administration’s response to our request,” Birchmeier added. “Many farmers from across Michigan sent emails and made contacts urging Secretary Perdue to take action. This announcement is positive news for farmers across the U.S. who so badly needed an emergency forage option.

“Now if we can just get mother nature to cooperate, turn off the rain and provide us with some much-needed sunshine and warm weather.”

Michigan House of Representatives Lend Their Support

As an additional show of support, 63 members of the Michigan House of Representatives signed a letter to Perdue, urging USDA to provide flexibility and equitable treatment for Michigan farmers struggling with persistent planting delays.

According to House Ag Committee Chair Rep. Julie Alexander (R-64th District), who led the effort for the letter of support, this spring’s consistently wet weather resulted in challenging, and in some cases, impossible planting and hay harvest conditions for farmers across Michigan.

“We have seen the wettest 12-month period on record in the continental United States,” Alexander said in a statement. “Like other parts of the Midwest, large portions of Michigan have seen precipitation measurements at double the normal rates.”

According to Alexander, the letter encouraged USDA to provide increased flexibility under FCIC prevented planting rules for utilizing forage and cover crops, including corn silage, on prevented plant acres.

“Time is of the essence in enacting these changes because we have reached the point in the season when seed dealers send their unused seed back to corporate storage,” the House letter read. “Waiting much longer will remove the option for farmers to plant at all because the seed will no longer be available.”

The Michigan House also asked USDA to avoid inequities for farmers suffering from extreme weather by ensuring that any definition of flooding covers all instances of excessive moisture as the agency administers the recently-approved $19.1 billion disaster aid bill.

“Whether the excessive moisture and prevented planting is directly caused by a river leaving its banks, more localized stream flooding, or ponding of rainfall and snowmelt, the challenges faced by the farmers are the same and each of them should be eligible for aid,” the letter requested.

Farm Bureau Insurance Crop Team Ready to Navigate Prevent Plant Rule Change

Janna Fritz, Farm Bureau Insurance’s crop insurance manager, called the RMA announcement welcomed news for both crop and livestock farmers, saying the added flexibility will allow farmers to do what they do best — and that’s helping each other in a time of crisis.

“Our crop insurance team is incredibly excited by RMA’s response. Our farmers needed additional forage options, and USDA heard our cries for help,” Fritz said. “Our Crop Insurance team understands the significance of this decision and is available to answer any questions growers may have about these changes.”

Farm Bureau Crop Insurance Specialist in Michigan:

Name Region Cell Phone

  • Ryan Fox West Region 269-313-5566
  • Marc Erffmeyer Southwest Region 269-569-1039
  • Marc Reinhardt Bay-Thumb Region 989-450-4851
  • Nate Gust Southeast Region 517-605-1076
  • Brenda Szach Northern Region 989-329-7290
  • Matt Thelen Central Region 989-640-0570
  • Adam Gulvas Saginaw Valley Region 989-205-3526

Written by: Michigan Farm News