On May 28, 2020, the Risk Management Agency (RMA) issued Managers Bulletin: MGR-20-015, regarding FSA’s decision to waive its late fees for producers filing their acreage reports late as long as they are filed within 30 days of the acreage report. https://www.rma.usda.gov/en/Policy-and-Procedure/Bulletins-and-Memos/2020/MGR-20-015. RMA states that it has received questions regarding the effect this waiver would have on the crop insurance program. RMA states that it has already granted acreage reporting relief in MGR-20-009 in response to COVID-19 and the many stay-at-home orders. RMA states that existing procedures authorizes approved insurance providers (AIPs) to correct certain errors in information reported on the acreage report, or other forms an insured must submit by the acreage reporting date, to ensure information is correct and consistent with any USDA program.
RMA states that for the 2020 crop year, acreage reports that occur after May 15, 2020, RMA is extending the time for making corrections for the acreage report, or other forms due by the acreage report, for an additional 30 days. Further, RMA states that it is also extending the time for making corrections for 2021 crops with acreage reports before August 1, 2020. RMA states that it is not extending the time in which producers must filed their acreage reports. RMA states:
- RMA is extending the USDA Reconciliation procedures contained in GSH Paragraph 504 an additional 30 days. If the AIP determines that an error exists or the producer identifies an error on the acreage report, or other forms due by the ARD, the AIP may correct the error up to 60 days following the ARD in the current crop year, provided the correction does not obtain, enhance or increase the insurance guarantee or indemnity if there is an existing cause of loss for the crop.
- AIPs must continue to document changes that substantiate the correction.
- Procedures contained in GSH Paragraph 503 continue to apply.
- Procedures contained in GSH Paragraph 505 continues to apply which allows AIPs to make conforming correction up to 30 days following the date that FSA corrects its information.
ANALYSIS – There is no question that Covid-19 has had a tremendous impact on everyone’s life and accommodations have had to be made. While there are always concerns about waiving policy terms that are codified in regulations, this year has proven to be especially challenging. In this instance, reconciliation of policy data with other USDA program data relies on the ability to compare the two. Further, Congress has expressly authorized the ability to make corrections within a reasonable time frame. The fact that FSA effectively extended its acreage reporting date by 30 days makes data correction by AIPs within 30 days of the acreage report impossible. Therefore, it is reasonable and necessary for RMA to extend the period in which corrections to data can be made for 30 days.
All statements made are opinions of the author and are not intended to provide legal opinions or legal advice.