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Crop insurance indemnity payments nearly equal premiums paid in 2019

University of Illinois
Thanks to a late, wet and cold spring, many acres across the Midwest were left unplanted. Last year, prevented planting payments made up about one-third of total crop insurance payments.

Late and prevented planting were prevalent across the Midwest in 2019.  Prevented planting payments made up about one-third of total crop insurance payments, and those counties with large amounts of prevented plantings also had higher insurance payments than counties with less wet weather problems.

While some areas received large crop insurance payments, other regions did not. On average, 2019 crop insurance indemnity payments nearly equaled total premiums, somewhat remarkable given the wet weather occurring in 2019. While payments were relatively high in 2019 compared to recent years, 2019 did not cause ten-year averages of payments to exceed premiums for corn, soybeans, and wheat. On the other hand, cotton and peanuts continue to have payments exceeding premiums.  County-level products had lower payments relative to premium in Illinois as compared to COMBO products.

2019 Loss Ratios

The performance of the crop insurance program often is judged by loss ratios, which equal insurance payments divided by total premium. A loss ratio of 1.0 means that crop insurance indemnity payments are equal to total premiums. Ratios above 1.00 indicate that payments exceed premium, which occurs with some frequency. On the other hand, loss ratios below 1.00 indicate that payments are less than premium. Given the way RMA sets premiums according to legislative mandates, loss ratios should average slightly below 1.00 over time.

Loss ratios and other performance measures presented here come from the Summary of Business, which is available from the Risk Management Agency (RMA) website. Data were downloaded in the middle of July 2020. More 2019 data could enter into the system, causing performance to vary slightly from values presented here.

In 2019, the loss ratio for all United States Federal crop insurance policies was 1.01 (see Table 1). Given late planting issues in 2019, a higher than average ratio is expected. The 2019 ratio of 1.01 is above the 2002-2019 average of .82 and the ten-year average ratio (2010-2019) of .83. Crop insurance losses have been relatively low in recent years, all loss ratios were below 1.0 from 2014 to 2018. The largest loss ratio since 2002 was 1.57, which occurred in the 2012 drought year.

For 2019, the loss ratio for corn was 1.06, above the 2002-2019 average of .78 and above the ten-year average of .89 (see Table 1). Wet weather caused corn’s loss ratio to be higher than in recent years, but the loss ratio is not particularly high.  It would appear that droughts have much more impact on losses than does wet weather.  The highest loss ratio for corn occurred in the 2012 drought year and was 2.74. Even given the 2012 drought year and 2019 prevent plant year, the ten-year and the longer-term average corn loss ratios are below the 1.00 benchmark.

Soybean’s loss ratio in 2019 was 1.05. Loss ratios on soybeans have been low in recent years, with an average of .62 for the 2002-1019 period, and .56 for the last ten years. The last time a soybean loss ratio exceeded 1.00 was in 2003 when the loss ratio was 1.45.

In 2019, wheat had a .85 loss ratio, slightly higher than the ten-year average loss ratio of .79. Cotton had a 1.14 loss ratio in 2018, above the 1.06 average for the last ten years. Peanuts had a 2.92 loss ratio, well above the 1.64 ten-year average. For cotton and peanuts, average loss ratios for 2002-2019 and for 2010-2019 exceed 1.00, unlike the averages for corn, soybeans, and wheat.

Late and prevented planting was prevalent along the South Dakota/Minnesota border, Wisconsin, northern and southern Illinois, northern and central Indiana, Ohio, northwest and north-central Ohio, and central and southern Michigan.

Regional Differences in Loss Ratios

As is typical, loss ratios varied widely across the United States, and wet weather and prevented planting were positively correlated with higher losses.  Prevented planting payments represented 34% of total payments for corn and 30% of total payments for soybeans in 2019.  Those areas with large amounts of prevented planting also had claims from yield and revenue losses, likely because wet weather caused late planting, which reduced yields on farmland that was planted.  Late and prevented planting was prevalent along the South Dakota/Minnesota border, Wisconsin, northern and southern Illinois, northern and central Indiana, Ohio, northwest and north-central Ohio, and central and southern Michigan.

Counties with more than 10% of their acres in prevented planting typically had loss ratios above 1.5. On the other hand, areas without as much wet weather usually had lower loss ratios. For example, prevented planting was not as pronounced in Iowa as in other parts of the Midwest. Except for some counties along the northwest border, Iowa counties had loss ratios below 1.0, with many northern and central counties having loss ratios below .5.

Counties with more than 10% of their acres in prevented planting typically had loss ratios above 1.5.