For thousands of farming operations across the country, small grains provide big benefits. Producers growing small grains cite reasons ranging from conservation purposes to the requirements of organic certification to diversification of income streams to taking advantage of local markets.
However, while small grains have demonstrable benefits, as with all crops they come with associated risks.
In the coming months, farmers across the country will contact their agents to purchase federal crop insurance before a March 15 sales closing date. While many will purchase policies to insure crops such as corn and soybeans, far fewer will insure small grains, such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye. But various insurance options are available to cover small grains.
Multi-Peril coverage — the most common form of federal crop insurance — protects a farmer’s average yield from natural perils and sometimes price changes, and is available in some locations for some small grains.
If a Multi-Peril program is not available for a specific crop in a farmer’s county, they may be able to secure individual coverage by applying for a written agreement through their agent.
Another avenue to protect small grains is Whole Farm Revenue Protection, a U.S. Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency pilot program that insures revenue across the entire operation, rather than basing coverage on average yields. In addition to small grains, other eligible commodities include organic crops, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and livestock. WFRP will not cover timber, forest, forest products, and animals for sport, show, or pets.
The Center for Rural Affairs recently released a report focused on crop insurance for small grains, addressing these avenues and more. To view the report, visit cfra.org/publications.
As they look to this year’s growing season, we encourage small grain producers to research the options available to manage risk on their operations.