Ag Policy Blog

Crop Insurance Won't Rescue Farmers from Dicamba Drift

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Cupped soybeans from dicamba damage

After a few conversations with ourcrops technologyeditor about dicamba drift, getting a few emails andchecking out the Twitter scroll onthe topic, it appears at least a few farmers in the Midwest aren'tas clear on the cropinsurance situation regarding dicamba drift as their mid-South brethren.

Federal crop insurance won't come to your rescue if your yield is hammered because of heavy pesticide drift. As the Risk Management Agency responded to me, the Federal Crop Insurance Act only covers losses for drought, flood or other natural disasters. Chemical drift is not an insurable loss. This is essentially a third-party tort issue.

Just to clarify that point, RMA shared a link to the 419-pageLoss Adjustment Manual Standards Handbook. https://www.rma.usda.gov/…

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Checking out dicamba damage has become a full-time occupation for Larry Steckel, a weed specialist at the University of Tennessee. Farmers there are fairly aware that they can't file an insurance claim. They are also reluctant to file litigation against commercial applicators or other surrounding farmers for damaging their crop yield, though Steckel noted, "Patience is beginning to wear thin on these folks, especially if you have been drifted on multiple times."

Tennessee saw some limited drift issues last year. If a field was hit once, it generally wasn't a problem. Fields that got hit multiple times with dicamba drift last year saw yield declines anywhere from 30% to 50%. "We're starting to see some of that again. The folks who have been drifted on once are really nervous about getting drifted on again."

Steckel mainly is seeing and hearing about the problems with drift and volatility, but he has had some phone conversations with farmers who were able perfectly follow the label on the approved products. It's akin to threading a needle, he said. "It's just, boy, that label is tough to follow. You can't spray when there is too much wind and I think we're finding that these temperature inversions are a real issue with this movement and if there is anything under 3 mph, you can't spray it either. If you have a lot of acres to spray, that is hard to do. So on paper, you can make this thing work, but in reality, if you are typical famer, it's a major undertaking trying to get it to work."

Getting back insurance, there have been a lot of questions about what happens to Actual Production History when there is dicamba damage. Here, RMA is making some changes. Starting in the 2018 crop year, farmers can elect to exclude yields from theirAPH due to uninsurable losses, such as third-party damage. So if a farmer has a significant yield collapse because of dicamba drift, then the farmer can elect to exclude that APH. Once again, RMA graced us with more summer reading with the recent release of the 2018 Crop Insurance Handbook that addresses the issue on page 189, section 1305 G of the handbook. https://www.rma.usda.gov/…

DTN Crops Technology Editor Pam Smith wrote Thursday about the continuing debate about possible dicamba restrictions in Arkansas, as well as complaints in Missouri. https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Follow me on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN

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