“Last year’s drought in various parts of the country is a vivid reminder why producers should use risk management tools such as crop insurance,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman. “This year’s closing date is fast approaching, and we encourage interested farmers and ranchers to take advantage of these important resources.”

To mitigate concerns about drought coverage, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) encourages producers to buy higher levels of crop insurance in 2003. “Many producers have better prevented planting coverage during drought than they realize,” said RMA Administrator Ross J. Davidson, Jr. “Crop insurance protection is a vital part of producers’ risk management strategy.”

Throughout the year, particularly in the months preceding the annual closing date for crop insurance, RMA conducts outreach meetings and provides educational resources and information to producers regarding crop insurance and the various risk management tools available through USDA programs and services.

Information regarding current coverage on prevented planting, agent locator assistance, as well as a list of the states and crops with a March 17 deadline can be found at: http://www.rma.usda.gov/.

Information is also available at local Farm Service Agency offices. Producers should contact their agent to purchase insurance before the March 17 deadline.

The Agriculture Department has been examining various ways to strengthen crop insurance and risk management resources available to producers.

Last month, Veneman announced an initiative to examine expanding crop insurance for other sectors, including forage and range coverage; addressing concerns with coverage in regions facing multiyear droughts; simplifying and improving the effectiveness of various insurance products; and reviewing various RMA authorities to ensure the soundness of delivery systems and effective oversight of the insurance industry.

e-mail: flaws@primediabusiness.com