Coming soon: dot-com businesses for crop insurance.

By the end of 2001, you should be able to shop for crop insurance on the Web. Two companies, Lloyds Insurance Company and Rural Community Insurance Company, recently had e-commerce implementation plans approved by USDA's Risk Management Agency, which oversees federal crop insurance programs. Others will soon follow.

According to an RMA press release, "This innovative technology will enable the two companies to market and service federal crop insurance programs over the Internet." Ultimately, RMA believes Internet sales and searches will help customers save "shopping time" and compare a greater number of options.

The Freedom to E-File Act, signed by President Clinton on June 20, 2000, required RMA to submit a plan to Congress by Dec. 1, 2000, allowing ag producers to obtain all forms and other information concerning the crop insurance program over the Internet from approved insurance providers. In support of the E-File Act, RMA met with insurance providers last August to discuss compliance with the act. Full implementation is set for Dec. 1, 2001.

"One of our main program goals has been making crop insurance program information readily available to all our producers," explains Ken Ackerman, outgoing RMA administrator. "Besides increased access to program information, producers will now have the ability to electronically complete, sign and submit forms required by their crop insurance policies."