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Biotech crops and lower insurance

More US farmers will have access to a program that lowers their crop insurance premiums if they plant certain biotech corn hybrids.


January 5, 2009
By Blair Andrews

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Interest in the US may work its way north

More US farmers will have access to a program that lowers their crop insurance premiums if they plant certain biotech corn hybrids.  The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors of the United States Department of Agriculture recently approved the expansion of the Biotechnology Yield Endorsement (BYE) program for the 2009 crop year. The move expands the 2008 pilot program to include more states and more products. Under the original pilot, farmers in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and Minnesota were eligible for rate reductions if they planted non-irrigated grain corn with three specific biotech traits: YieldGard(RT) Corn Borer, YieldGard Rootworm and Roundup Ready(RT) Corn 2. These traits for insect control and herbicide tolerance are marketed under Monsanto Company’s trade names of YieldGard(RT) Plus with Roundup Ready(RT) Corn 2 and YieldGard VT Triple.    For 2009, the program will be available in seven more states, including Ohio and Michigan, and it will also include products from Pioneer Hi-Bred and Syngenta Seeds.

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Although lower insurance rates for biotech applications exist in the US, seed companies in Canada are getting set to approach Agricorp on the prospect. 

While a similar break for crop insurance does not exist in Ontario, seed industry officials are getting ready to make their case to the province’s crop insurer.  “We’re not at the point where we’re at serious discussions with Agricorp,” says Mike Nailor, corn and soybean trait marketing lead with Monsanto Canada.  “But we’re going to have enough data to at least approach them to see if they’re open to such a program.”

According to Nailor, data played a key role in winning approval for the pilot program in the US.  A Monsanto news release states the company spent more than two years gathering and analyzing thousands of data points from more than three harvest years from the original pilot states.  “This data demonstrated that Monsanto YieldGard triple stack technologies deliver more consistent yields, effectively lowering risk,” states the release.

Nailor anticipates that the company may be in a position to discuss Ontario’s situation at the end of the 2008 harvest season, noting that it marks the third full year of data collection in Canada.  “We’re confident that growers in Canada will see the same benefits that they do in the US in terms of risk reduction just because of the nature of the plant roots and how they appear to be stronger and create better plant health,” says Nailor.

Figures from the US indicate that the cost of a total policy premium during the 2008 pilot program was reduced on average by more than $3 per acre on policies such as Actual Production History, Revenue Assurance and Crop Production Coverage. Savings with the 2009 pilot are expected to be similar.

To be eligible for the premium discount in 2009, US farmers must plant at least 75 per cent of their corn acres using the following technologies:

  • YieldGard(RT) Plus with Roundup Ready(RT) Corn 2, YieldGard VT Triple(RT) and YieldGard VT Triple PRO(TM) technology from Monsanto Company. Eligible states include Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. These expansion states join the original four pilot states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota. Irrigated corn for qualifying hybrids would be eligible in Kansas and Nebraska.
  • Pioneer(RT) brand corn hybrids with Herculex(RT) XTRA traits, including those stacked with the Roundup Ready(RT) Corn 2 trait, will be eligible for crop insurance premium reductions in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
  • Syngenta Agrisure brands in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin