By Duane Dailey
With volatile livestock market prices, farmers now have more appealing insurance underwritten by the USDA. The federally subsidized protection has been revised and simplified.
Ryan Milhollin, University of Missouri Extension economist, says that while crop farmers are protecting against losses, livestock producers haven’t done as much.
USDA Risk Management Agency heard complaints and revised Livestock Risk Protection (LRP), Milhollin says. Higher subsidies on premiums may especially appeal to farmers growing feeder calves.
A policy covers unexpected lower sale prices. When prices fall, a policy softens loss. Buyers can obtain full or partial coverage. Lower protection costs less.
New policies fit small producers and are more flexible. The policies partially cover price shortfalls below expected prices. Percent of coverage can be adjusted.
The premium subsidy, which had been 13%, now ranges from 20% to 35%, depending on the plan chosen.
MU agricultural economists, including Milhollin, wrote MU Extension publication G459, which explains LRP and other livestock and dairy risk plans. The newly updated four-page guide is available for free download.
Missouri farmers avoided complexities of the old system. That left them exposed to risk. This year, Missouri farmers insured only 5,000 head of feeder calves, down from 30,000 in 2014.
While USDA underwrites LRP, policies come only from local insurance agents. Usually, they also sell crop insurance.
“Local agents help farmers pick a plan to fit their situation,” Milhollin says.
There are many LRP advantages, he says. Risk management protects from financial loss when sale prices drop. Most appealing, USDA helps pay premiums.
LRP provides protection similar to a “put option” on the futures market. But it’s easier and more flexible. Policy coverage fits the number of weeks a calf herd is held. There are no broker fees.
LRP insurance covers only market prices. It doesn’t compensate for other losses, such as death by disease or lightning.
Further, ending values aren’t based on actual sale prices. Payments rely on indexes and market data sets. “Farmers need to understand their local markets,” Milhollin says.
LRP covers much more than feeder calves. But fewer farmers retain feeders into the feedlot. LRP also cover hogs and sheep. A separate risk plan covers dairy.