By MATTHEW WEAVER
When wheat farmers sign up for 2011 crop insurance, there will be a place for falling number test results on their insurance forms.
Based on feedback from regional wheat producers and organizations, the USDA Risk Management Agency filed discounts for falling numbers for the hard red spring, durum and soft white wheat classes in quality statements for the 2011 crop year.
The falling number test analyzes wheat samples for sprout damage by measuring a flour-and-water paste sample's resistance to a falling plunger. The time, in seconds, is known as the falling number.
Agency regional director Dave Paul, based in Spokane, said the change essentially adjusts farmers' production accounts on their crop insurance policy based on discounts the Farm Service Agency uses for crop commodity loans.
"If they're in a loss situation and they have falling numbers, it should be reflected in the calculation," Paul said.
Idaho Grain Producers Association Executive Director Travis Jones said the change is part of a multi-agency approach to find a solution to the problem.
Growers were getting docked by grain elevators for quality issues related to moisture through the falling numbers test, and not receiving assistance through crop insurance, Jones said.
"It's basically helping deal with yet another risk issue growers are facing out there in the countryside," he said. "This is going to be positive for them."
Jones doesn't expect falling numbers to be an issue for the 2010 crop year, but it could arise if there is rain and wheat buyers become concerned.
Jones advised farmers to familiarize themselves with the agency's new combined insurance policy and understand how best to protect themselves against quality issues before signing up for crop insurance in the fall.
Jones said the move is a step in the right direction, although there will probably always be a need to apply the program to unforeseen issues that arise.
USDA Risk Management Agency: www.rma.usda.gov
Idaho Grain Producers Association: www.idahograin.org
Idaho Wheat Commission: www.idahowheat.org