For the first time, Maryland producers of pasture (that includes horse farm owners!) and hay and beekeepers can apply for the Group Risk Protection by enrolling in the Rainfall Index Program. Offered by private crop insurance providers through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, the Rainfall Index uses National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data to trigger crop insurance payments. The deadline is Sept. 30.

“We continuously look for innovative risk management tools for our farmers,” said Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Earl F. Hance. “The Rainfall Index is a tool that we hope helps an important part of agriculture in Maryland: livestock and equine producers, hay producers and the beekeepers.”

Farmers and beekeepers who sign up for this crop insurance can expect to receive indemnities from losses occurring during a drought, based upon the deviation from normal precipitation according to NOAA.

The USDA’s Risk Management Agency and the Federal Crop Insurance Corp. expanded the Rainfall Index, considered a pilot product, to include Maryland earlier this year. The Maryland Department of Agriculture had asked for this consideration for the State’s producers since it has been available in parts of Virginia and Pennsylvania.

In 2011, in the 16 states with the Rainfall Index available, farmers have received $98.7 million in crop insurance indemnities.

Farmers should contact a crop insurance agent as soon as possible to explore this risk management tool. To find a crop insurance agent, visit RMA or contact Mark Powell at MDA at (410) 841-5775.