It seems likely the price of soybeans at harvest this fall could be much lower than it is now. The options a farmer might consider because of this potential is choosing a different crop insurance plan.
Federal crop insurance comes in two basic revenue protection forms, R-P and A-R-P. R-P stands for Revenue Protection and A-R-P stands for Area Risk Protection. The difference between the two says University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey is simple enough to understand.
Gary Schnitkey - RP is what most people buy, Revenue Protection. It is a farm level product and makes payments based on what happens to farm yields. ARP is a county level product. So, it makes payments on what happens to county wide yields, county revenue, but it is the county yield that is entered into the equation rather the farm yield (as is the case) for RP.
It is the available coverage level under the ARP federal crop insurance option that put Schnitkey’s mind to work when he was considering how farmers should use the risk management program this season.
Gary Schnitkey - The reason why I think farmers should consider it is because they have a 90% coverage level in ARP versus only 85% on ARP. This year, you know, we are probably looking at some more downside risk on soybeans and a 90% guarantee would cover more of that price risk.
Moving up to a 90% coverage level increases the price below which crop insurance payments occur. Given a $10.20 projected February price and a 90% coverage level, harvest prices below $9.18 a bushel for soybeans in November ($10.20 x .90) would generate payments, given that the harvest yield equals the guarantee yield. The $9.18 price compares to an $8.67 break-even price at an 85% RP coverage level, and an $8.16 break-even at an 80% coverage level.
There are some caveats when switching from RP to ARP.
ARP does not have prevented planting or replant payments while RP does. The coverage on ARP begins when the crop is planted. Because ARP uses county yields in its calculations, a farm may not receive a payment if the farm has a poor yield and the county does not. The relative premiums on RP and ARP vary across counties. Not all counties will have a 90% ARP premium that is lower than the 85% RP policies.
Finally, here’s an important note about the crop insurance guarantee from Gary Schnitkey. The CME Group soybean contract for November 2017 delivery currently is trading around $10.20 per bushel. A $10.20 per bushel projected price would be $1.35 higher than last year’s projected price of $8.85 per bushel. In and of itself, a higher projected price will offer additional revenue protection on soybeans without the need to consider the merits of RP versus ARP.