What is Annual Forage Insurance?
Annual Forage (AF) insurance is a rainfall index product for annual crops produced for forage. AF insures against reduced forage yield due to less precipitation than normal. When rainfall falls below a set amount, a payout or indemnity is made. Precipitation (rainfall) is measured locally, in an approximately 14x16 mile area called a “grid”. A producer selects the months (intervals), weight (importance) of months, and % precipitation (coverage level) they want to insure for.
The deadline to purchase AF for any annual forage crop produced over the next calendar year is July 15.
A producer must make three major choices:
How did Annual Forage change this year?
The USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) recently announced several changes to AF, that were designed to increase flexibility for producers. A major change is that AF includes more growing seasons; previously only 4 growing seasons were offered. Now there are 12 growing seasons, that cover the entire year. Each growing season is 7 months long.
The other major change is that a producer is not required to insure all eligible acres. Other changes are discussed here https://www.rma.usda.gov/en/News-Room/Press/Press-Releases/2023-News/USDA-Announces-Modifications-to-the-Annual-Forage-and-Rainfall-Index-Program.
How does selection of growing seasons and intervals work?
The forage crop must be planted between early and final planting dates, similar to other crop insurance policies. The early and final planting dates are unique to each growing season, with the early planting typically 1.5 months before the beginning month of the growing season and late planting right before the beginning month of the growing season.
Next, 3 2-month intervals within the growing season must be selected and assigned weights (for example, 30%, 30%, and 40%). No single month can be insured twice (overlap) within a growing season and no interval can have a weight higher than 40%. One exception is that 50% weights are allowed for intervals in growing seasons 10, 11, and 12, which begin in June, July, and August, respectively.
Other key decisions, including grid selection, can be discussed with an insurance agent or by visiting the AF decision support tool at http://af.agforceusa.com/ri.
A producer planted forage sorghum in June 2022 in Hodgeman County (grid 22021) during Growing Season 11. The producer wanted to ensure good growth early in the growing season and harvest in October, so selected Jul-Aug at 50% and Sept-Oct at 50% (50% interval weights are allowed only during growing seasons 10, 11, and 12). They selected a coverage level of 90% and a productivity factor of 100%. The producer paid a premium of $22 per acre and received an indemnity of $92 per acre, for substantially lower-than-average rainfall during both intervals.
This example was estimated using the AF Decision Support Tool at http://af.agforceusa.com/ri and is for demonstration purposes only. The example uses current policy choices applied to 2022. Some insurance agents have their own decision support software; only an insurance agent can provide official premium estimates.
Where is Annual Forage Insurance used in Kansas?
In 2023 (commodity year), over 281,000 acres were covered by AF. In 2022 (commodity year), over 135,000 acres were covered by AF, down from over 160,000 acres in 2021 (commodity year). Figures 1 and 2 show that AF is used in many western and south-central Kansas counties, but not in the eastern third of the state. The total value of production insured (insurance liabilities or guarantee) was about $52 million in 2023 and $26 million in both 2021 and 2022. Annual forage insurance has only been used in Kansas since 2014.
Figure 1. Total acres enrolled in Annual Forage insurance in 2023. Source: AgManager.info
Figure 2. Total acres enrolled in Annual Forage insurance in 2022. Source: AgManager.info
Does it pay?
Annual Forage insurance pays out indemnities when the level of rainfall relative to the historic average within the producer’s grid is lower than the (producer-selected) coverage level. For example, if rainfall is 80% of the historic level and the producer selects an 85% coverage level, there would be indemnity. However, a 75% coverage level would not receive an indemnity.
In 2022 (commodity year), over $10 million in indemnities, averaging about $77 per insured acre, were paid out to Kansas producers using AF. Kansas producers paid about $2.84 million in premiums. 2022 county-level loss ratios, or the ratio of total indemnities to total premiums, are displayed in Figure 3. While loss ratios are affected by producer-selected coverage ratios and intervals, as well as other factors, high loss ratios in 2022 reflect the then-emerging and widespread drought.
Commodity year 2023 has not yet been completed for AF; payments to date have totaled over $19 million, in comparison to about $6.1 million in producer-paid premiums. Given the ongoing drought, loss ratios will likely be at least as high as commodity year 2022.
Figure 3. Annual Forage Insurance 2022 loss ratios. Source: AgManager.info
What are some advantages and disadvantages of using Annual Forage insurance?
The primary disadvantage of AF is that it doesn’t insure your farm or fields, it covers low moisture in your area or grid. Before using AF, a producer needs to understand this risk: they might receive a payment when they have sufficient moisture or not get a payment when they experience low rainfall. Further, it could be extremely dry for a two-month insurance period (interval), resulting in low forage yield, yet a large rainfall event on the last day of the period could make the period ineligible for a payment.
An advantage of AF is that payments are calculated automatically based on actual precipitation and made relatively quickly. Unlike grain crops that typically have scale tickets, forage may be harvested and used by the grower themselves without yield documentation or the forage might be grazed. Further, a producer can select what months they want coverage in and how much coverage they want. While some learning is required with any insurance product and AF requires an initial time investment, it is a relatively simple insurance product. This is especially likely after the first year or two of participation; a good relationship with your insurance agent makes a big difference.
What else should be considered?
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2021-70027-34694.
For more information about this publication and others, visit AgManager.info
Jenny Ifft, Agricultural Policy Extension Specialist
John Holman, Cropping Systems Agronomist – Garden City
Sylvanus Gaku, Doctoral Student – Agricultural Economics
 This includes annual crops used for grazing, haying, grazing/haying, grain/grazing, green chop, grazing/green chop, or silage.
 2023 commodity year is still in progress and refers to AF policies purchased by the July 15, 2022 deadline, with growing seasons covering September 2022 through November 2023.