New Guide Sheds Light on Small Grains Insurance

November 21, 2021

One of the many management decisions involved with raising small grains is whether to purchase federal crop insurance. A new guide from the Center for Rural Affairs sheds light on the options available for crops such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye.

Photo: Center for Rural Affairs

By Kate Hansen, Center for Rural Affairs

As farmers wrap up this year’s harvest and begin thinking about next year, crop insurance is one of the many management decisions at the top of their minds. 

While most producers are familiar with insurance options for crops such as corn and soybeans, the details for small grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and rye may be less clear. A new guide from the Center for Rural Affairs, “From Seed to Secured: Crop Insurance for Small Grains,” tackles common questions and sheds light on coverage options for small grains. 

From revenue and yield protection, to written agreements and, to private policies, the landscape of crop insurance is vast. Most farmers who purchase crop insurance purchase coverage that is federally subsidized and administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). 

For small grains, the coverage options available are dependent on the crop and county. Some counties will have a policy called Multi-Peril Crop Insurance (MPCI) that can be purchased “off the shelf”, while others will require that farmers try other avenues for coverage. 

Multi-Peril coverage is the most common form of federal crop insurance, and typically is available as either yield protection or revenue protection. The availability of coverage options is also dependent on location and crop. Wheat and barley coverage is generally available as revenue protection, yield protection, and other options, whereas yield protection has historically been the main option for oats. A farmer’s crop insurance agent should be able to easily identify if MPCI is available to them on an individual basis. 

If an MPCI program is not available for a specific crop in a farmer’s county, they may be able to secure individual coverage by applying for a written agreement through their agent. 

Most often for small grains, requesting coverage by written agreement means coverage from another county is being extended to the farmer’s county. For this type of coverage, the application process will require information on the other county’s policy, estimated planting and harvest dates, and three years of the producer’s own production history, among other details. If yield history is not available, a farmer may be able to submit production history for a similar crop.

Finally, small grains are also eligible to be insured by Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), an RMA pilot program that insures revenue across the entire operation, rather than basing coverage on yields or harvest. 

If a farmer purchasing WFRP grows small grains, revenue from that crop will be factored into their total revenue for the year. Other eligible commodities include organic crops, fruits, vegetables, nuts, specialty grains, and livestock. WFRP will not cover timber, forest, forest products, and animals for sport, show, or pets. 

“From Seed to Secured: Crop Insurance for Small Grains," includes more detailed information on these options. It also offers information on a special option for malting barley, an overview of the landscape of private crop insurance policies, and interviews with a Minnesota farmer and Nebraska crop insurance agent. 


To read “From Seed to Secured: Crop Insurance for Small Grains,” click here or visit cfra.org/publications to download a copy. Farmers with questions ahead of the sales closing date to buy crop insurance for next year, which for many crops is March 15, can reach out to Kate Hansen with the Center for Rural Affairs via email at kateh@cfra.org, or by calling 515.215.1294.