Considerations for Adding SCO Crop Insurance

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Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, sdjohns@iastate.edu

The decision to purchase Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) crop insurance in 2020 must be confirmed with your crop insurance agent on or before March 15, 2020. This deadline for making crop insurance changes for spring planted crops now becomes the same deadline for electing and enrolling annually in the ARC/PLC program at your local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.

The SCO product is available to producers who elect and will enroll in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) commodity crop program on a farm in 2020. With the ongoing election/enrollment in the ARC/PLC program this winter, the expectation of many experts is that most farmers will choose the PLC program on their corn base acres. However, the ARC-County (ARC-CO) program will be the choice for most soybean base acres.

The SCO band of coverage is based on the county revenue given that the underlying COMBO crop insurance product, likely Revenue Protection (RP) is also purchased. SCO provides a protection in a band at an 86% maximum level down to the coverage level selected for RP. An example would be a farmer who selects a 75% coverage level for RP and adds the SCO product. Thus, SCO could provide county-based revenue coverage from the 86% to the 75% level, or 11% total SCO.

To trigger an indemnity claim the actual county revenue must fall below 86% of the county revenue guarantee before SCO would trigger a payment. As a result, the RP-SCO combination provides mixed coverage: Farm-level coverage is provided from the RP product downward (65%, 70%, 75%, 80% and 85% levels) while county-level coverage provides between 86% and the coverage level of the RP product.

The primary disadvantage of the RP-SCO combination is that the county-level coverage may not match losses on a farm. Sometimes a farm may have a large revenue loss while SCO will not trigger a payment. It’s also possible that the farm does not have a loss while the county-based SCO product triggers a payment. Note that if an SCO indemnity payment is made, the farmer will not receive it until the June following harvest when USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) releases the final county yields.

The primary advantage of purchasing an RP-SCO combination product is a lower overall farmer-paid premium. However, consider if your county yields are typically less variable than your farm’s yields. This could result in fewer indemnity claims for a county-based product than for that farm-level product at the same coverage level. SCO has a government subsidy rate of 65% which is higher than the rate for RP at the 85% coverage levels using enterprise units. This 65% subsidy rate is higher than all subsidy levels for basic and optional units when the coverage level is above 50%.

Farmers who typically purchase RP at high coverage levels (80% and 85%) will likely find a slightly lower farmer-paid premium by adding SCO. But consider a couple cautions before you add the SCO product in 2020. First, make sure your farm’s yields are reflecting your county’s yields. Second, if an SCO indemnity payment is triggered, don’t expect to receive those proceeds until the June following harvest.

Be aware of the time constraints that both FSA county office staff and crop insurance agents will have as this March 15, 2020 deadline approaches. Prepare now to elect and enroll in the ARC/PLC programs for your farms and perhaps update your PLC yields that will be effective for the 2020 crop. Then discuss with your agent the crop insurance changes you’ll be making in 2020 including the possibility of adding the SCO product if you will be enrolling in the PLC program for that crop.

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February’s WASDE Report Had Few Crop Demand Adjustments (2/11/20)

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Chad Hart, ISU Extension Grain Marketing Economist, provides a summary of the latest WASDE report.

February’s WASDE report had the potential for some fireworks, as it was the first major update since the signing of the Phase One trade deal with China and the outbreak of the coronavirus. But those fireworks did not materialize as USDA made relatively few adjustments, with those adjustments firmly supported by current trade and usage data. For corn, the two moves of note essentially offset each other. Corn exports were lowered 50 million bushels, as export sales continue to struggle. But corn usage for ethanol was raised 50 million bushels, as weekly ethanol production and monthly corn processing data shows increased usage.  With the offsetting moves, the 2019/20 corn ending stocks estimate remains at 1.89 billion bushels and the 2019/20 season-average price estimate holds at $3.85 per bushel. For soybeans, the only shift came from exports. USDA raised soybean exports by 50 million bushels, based on larger year-over-year sales to China. While that lowered the 2019/20 soybean ending stocks estimate to 425 million bushels, the 2019/20 season-average price estimate was lowered to $8.75 per bushel, reflecting the softer prices on the soybean market throughout January.

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ARC/PLC Decision Deadlines Loom

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Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, sdjohns@iastate.edu

Iowa producers on row crop farms have until March 15 to make a 2-year election and then enroll by commodity crop and USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) farm number. There really is no reason to delay, as no ARC-CO/PLC payments are projected for the 2019 crops. Besides, many FSA offices could be swamped as the deadline approaches.

Undecided producers should start by understanding the importance of the effective reference prices of $3.70 per bushel for corn and $8.40 per bushel for soybeans. In order to trigger a PLC payment, the final national cash for the entire marketing year must be below these levels. The national cash price projections for the 2019 crop as of January 10, 2020 are $3.85 per bushel for corn and $9.00 per bushel for soybeans, respectively. Thus, no PLC payments are expected for corn and/or soybean base acres that are elected and enrolled in the PLC program.

If there are 2019 ARC-CO or PLC payments, it will likely be in a county with exceptionally low 2019 final yields. These final county yield numbers from the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) will not be known until later this year. The 2019 Iowa yields from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) January report were estimated to be 198 bushels per acre corn and 55 bushels per acre for soybeans. Such levels indicate that most final county yields are likely too high to trigger a 2019 ARC-CO payment.

If there is a 2019 payment, it will likely be under the ARC-Individual (ARC-IC) program. The producer probably has a farm with poor 2019 yields and possibly prevented planting acres. That producer should consider electing and enrolling all crops by FSA farm number in the ARC-Individual (ARC-IC) program if a likely payment will be generated. It will require further examination and production evidence for each commodity crop produced on that farm since the 2013 crop year.

It’s actually for 2020, that an ARC/PLC payment seems more likely. Corn and soybean planted acres are expected to increase by roughly 11 to 12 million total planted acres for both crops as a result of the large prevented planting acres in 2019. Two sources of 2020 price projections released last fall are the USDA Outlook and the Food Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) at the University of Missouri. Both sources project an increase in 2020 US corn planted acres by 2.5 to 4.5 million acres and use 30-year trendline yields assuming normal production. Those 2020 crop cash price projections for corn are $3.40 and $3.53 per bushel, respectively. Thus, the likelihood of a 2020 PLC payment for corn that would be received in October 2021, as the final cash price would fall below the reference price of $3.70 per bushel.

Using those same two sources for 2020 soybean cash price projections, US soybean planted acres would increase between 7.5 and 8.5 million acres as compared to 2019.  Again, they use 30-year trendline yields and normal production. Those 2020 crop cash price projections for soybeans are $8.54 and $8.85 per bushel, respectively. Thus, no 2020 PLC payment for soybean base acres is expected as the final cash price is not below the effective reference price of $8.40 per bushel. However, the lower national cash price improves the chances of ARC-CO payments for soybean base acres depending on the final county yields.

Producers will also have a one-time chance to update their PLC Farm Yields starting with the 2020 crop. Even if a producer elects the ARC-CO or ARC-IC program option, the PLC yield can be updated and becomes the public record of the farm’s yield. Supporting evidence for the PLC Yield Update will likely come from a producer’s crop insurance records if a program crop was produced in the 2013 thru 2017 crop years. In some cases, the yields for a crop insurance unit might not match with the FSA farm number and will need to be averaged. Note the farmland owner on cash rent farms will need to approve this PLC Yield Update and sign the form CCC-867 unless a power of attorney form is on file.

Use the ISU Ag Decision Maker ARC/PLC Payment Estimator and PLC Yield Update Tools to provide your analysis. More Information on the 2018 Farm Bill, including web casts on various pieces of the program, can be found on the Ag Decision Maker Farm Bill page.

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Income Tax Changes for 2019

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Contributed by Charles Brown, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, crbrown@iastate.edu

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) was signed into law December 22, 2017. Among many changes, it created new tax brackets for 2018 thru 2025. It also eliminated the deduction for personal exemptions and raised the standard deduction in 2019 to $12,200 for single fliers, $24,400 for married filing jointly and $18,350 for head of households. Keep in mind that most of the changes in TCJA end in 2025 and move back to pre-2018 tax law.

Table 1. Tax Brackets and Rates, 2019

Section 179 Expense election was one of the changes that was made permanent. In 2019, this is now $1,020,000 and the phase-out starts at $2,550,000. On Iowa returns, the maximum amount is $100,000 and the phase-out starts at $400,000. In 2020, Iowa couples with the Federal amounts.

One of the other major changes in the TCJA was the repeal of like-kind exchange treatment for traded personal property. Under old law when a farmer traded machinery, the farmer depreciated the difference paid plus any remaining basis on the item traded in and no taxes were due. Under TCJA when a farmer trades machinery, the trade is considered a sale in the amount the dealer allowed for the trade-in, triggering ordinary taxable gain, and the farmer gets to depreciate the full purchase price of the machinery received. If the farmer does not want to pay tax on the gain of the trade-in, they are forced to use Section 179 or bonus depreciation to offset the taxable gain. Iowa did not couple with the Federal change in 2018, but maintained the old like-kind exchange rules. In 2019, for Iowa returns, farmers may use the old rule for like-kind exchanges or use the new Federal rule. In 2020, Iowa will couple with the Federal rule.

If farmers are forced to use Section 179 or bonus depreciation to offset gains from trading machinery, there can be other consequences. Excessive accelerated methods of depreciation reduce net Schedule F income, possibly taking it down to $0 or maybe even a negative situation. IRA and other retirement plan contributions are based on earned income (Schedule F). The deduction for self-employed health insurance is based on Schedule F net income. Contributions for self-employment tax are based on Schedule F net income. Reducing Schedule F income affects money available for retirement planning and other “above the line” deductions taken on the 1040. Also new in 2018 was the new “post card” 1040 Form that also had multiple schedules attached to it. After numerous complaints, there is another new 1040 Form for 2019. This one is a combination of the old 1040 and the 1040 from 2018. Maybe eventually they will get it right. I am not sure I can stand more simplification in our tax code.

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Delayed and Prevented Planting Resources for 2019 from ISU Extension and Outreach

On May 24, 2019, ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomists, Rebecca Vittetoe and Virgil Schmitt, along with farm management specialist, Ryan Drollette recorded a webinar on delayed and prevented planting. The following are links to resources for 2019 delayed and prevented planting decisions.

Delayed and Prevented Planting Webinar and Resources

Agronomic ResourcesFlooded, unplanted field

Cover Crops

Farm Management, Crop Insurance

More Information

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