Two new risk management tools for pasture, rangeland and perennial forage will be tested in select areas beginning with the 2007 crop year. The programs are primarily designed to protect against drought -- covering grazing land and perennial hay production.

Both are available for sale from crop-insurance agents through the closing date of Nov. 30, 2006. More detailed info on pilot programs is available at www.rma.usda.gov/policies/pasturerangeforage/.

The insurance products are designed to operate in a variety of range and pasture environments using innovative technology to determine when a producer has suffered a loss.

The Rainfall Index insurance program and the Vegetation Index insurance program are offered and subsidized by USDA's Risk Management Agency (RMA). The programs are designed to provide livestock producers the ability to purchase risk protection for losses of forage produced for grazing or harvested for hay.

"The RMA has been working for a long time to provide subsidized coverage for livestock producers similar to what crop farmers have enjoyed for decades," says Max Thomas, of Silveus Insurance Group, Lubbock, TX. "This is the first time RMA has rolled out a program that offers a buy-up, low-deductible coverage for rancher's basic crop, which is grass and hay."

The insurance programs are based on one of two different indices, depending on the state or region where the rangelands are located.

The Rainfall Index program will be pilot-tested in 220 counties in Colorado, Idaho, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, North Dakota and Texas and is based on rainfall indices as a means to measure expected production losses.

The Vegetation Index insurance program will be pilot-tested in 110 counties in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and South Dakota and is based on satellite imagery that determines the productivity of the acreage as a means to measure expected production losses.
-- Clint Peck