The Supplemental Revenue Assistance Payments (SURE) program is the new Federal Disaster Program that is part of the new farm bill, and will be available to all eligible producers in any county that was declared a disaster county in 2008 by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, including contiguous counties. SURE covers all crops – whether insurable by federal crop insurance or the NAP program – and covers both production losses and crop quality losses. The qualifications for SURE and payment calculations are very similar to previous ad hoc disaster programs.

If a producer is in a county that has already been declared a county for 2008 by the secretary of agriculture, and knows there will be significant corn and soybean yield reductions, or other crop losses, it will likely be worth the effort to be of program eligibility for the 2008 crop year. Producers in counties not declared a disaster could also be eligible for SURE program payments if they have more than a 50% total revenue loss on all farm units for the 2008 crop year. If your only crop acres are corn and soybeans, and you purchased crop insurance on all acres for 2008, you are already eligible for the SURE program. However, if you have other crop acres that are not insured, or hay and pasture acres, you will need to pay a 2008 NAP fee at your county FSA office by Sept. 16, in order to become eligible for the SURE Program for the 2008 crop year. For producers who are not facing crop losses in 2008, it may not be as necessary to be eligible for the SURE program.

Producers in eligible counties must meet SURE program eligibility requirements. Producers must carry crop insurance (minimum of CAT insurance coverage) on all eligible crops for 2008 and must carry NAP insurance coverage on all non-crop-insurance crops for 2008 in order to be eligible for SURE program payments for 2008. About 90% of producers carry crop insurance on their corn and soybean acres. However, a much smaller percentage of producers carry crop insurance on wheat, barley, oats and other small-grain crops or on minor crops. A relatively small percentage of producers also carry NAP insurance on alfalfa and other forage acres, and on pastureland.

All crop acres and forage acres, including pasture acres, must be insured by crop insurance or NAP coverage for 2008, in order to be eligible for SURE payments on corn and soybeans. A one-time crop insurance and NAP buy-in for 2008 is available until Sept. 16, 2008, at county FSA offices. The one-time NAP fees for 2008 are: $100/crop, up to $300/producer/county or $900 total/producer for all counties. Any previous fees paid for CAT insurance or NAP coverage will be deducted. The NAP buy-in requirement is waived for all eligible socially disadvantaged or limited resources producers, as well as beginning farmers, as determined by FSA definitions. Payment of this NAP fee for 2008 does not provide insurance coverage for 2008, and just provides for SURE Program eligibility.

According to the language in the new farm bill, the first payments under the SURE program will not occur until after Oct. 1, 2009. Payments under the new disaster program will not be finalized until 30 days after the completion of the 2008 crop marketing year, which is Aug. 31, 2009 for corn and soybeans. The new farm bill does not authorize USDA to issue advance disaster payments after the 2008 harvest, and only allows a final payment after Oct. 1, 2009.

SURE Program Payments
The SURE program is a revenue guarantee program – similar to many crop insurance revenue products, without the increasing harvest revenue if crop prices increase during the growing season. If a given eligible farm’s actual crop revenue is less than the guaranteed revenue, the SURE program will pay 60% of the difference. The actual crop revenue includes the value of the crop harvested, crop insurance indemnity payments and other USDA payments. All payments under the SURE program are based on the sum of the total revenues for all crops in all counties for an FSA farm unit.

For 2009-2012, producers must purchase crop insurance (a minimum of CAT coverage) for all eligible crops and NAP insurance for other crops in order to be eligible for the SURE program for a given crop year. In Minnesota, the deadline to purchase 2009 crop insurance for corn, soybeans, wheat, peas, sweet corn and other crops is March 15, 2009. However, the deadline to purchase 2009 NAP insurance for existing alfalfa stands and other hay ground is Sept. 30, 2008. So, any producers who have hay acres and want to be eligible for the SURE Program in 2009 will have to purchase NAP insurance on their hay acres at their county FSA office by Sept. 30, 2008, as well as purchase 2009 crop insurance on other crop acres after Jan. 1, 2009. Producers who want to be eligible for the SURE Program for 2009 need to pay attention to the crop insurance purchase deadlines for all planned 2009 crops. Check with county FSA offices for more details on the SURE program and eligibility.

Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at kent.thiesse@minnstarbank.com.