Because of the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, USDA is extending program flexibilities to Approved Insurance Providers or AIPs and agricultural producers until June 30, 2022 or later. Originally, these flexibilities were expiring at the end of January.
“Our priority is to keep our producers and partners as safe as possible, while at the same time continuing to provide the best service we can,” says Marcia Bunger, administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency. “These unique times call for everyone to be cautious and as flexible as possible, and these added flexibilities will help us achieve those goals.”
Bunger explains that the pandemic created the groundwork for the creation of some of the flexibilities initially, but this allows additional ability for USDA to service farmers as COVID continues to impact day-to-day operations.
Specifically, the extended flexibilities allow notifications to be sent electronically, including policy related information over the phone or other electronic methods to select policy elections by sales closing, acreage reporting and production reporting dates, including options, endorsements and their forms. Producers may sign electronically or within 60 calendar days.
Bunger adds that although written agreements are typically common, RMA is allowing producers to submit a request for a written agreement after the sales closing date. They’re also allowing producers who are inable to physically sign a written agreement because of COVID-19 to do so after the expiration date.
Bunger explains the agency be providing additional time for AIPs to accept Regional Office Determined Yield, Master Yield, and Irrigated Determined Yield requests for Category B (annual) crops. USDA is also allowing AIPs to request a 30-day extension to submit Determined Yield requests for Category C (perennial) crops.
“Because of COVID, if there are certain instances where someone is ill or sick, we can provide some flexibilities around that deadline,” Bunger says.
As some offices have limited face-to-face interaction, many actions have to be done via phone. RMA is waiving the witness signature requirement for approval of Assignments of Indemnity.
“Allowing the agent to document that this was completed by phone is part of addressing the pandemic and how we can service customers,” Bunger adds.