Protect Your Production

Web AdminAgribusiness, Crop Insurance

By Clint Thompson

Florida’s climate allows growers to produce more than 300 different specialty crops. Unfortunately, that same environment can lead to various factors which can negatively impact production every year.


Producers should prepare for the possibility every season that their crop could be impacted by weather events like hurricanes or tornadoes, as well as invasive species, plant diseases and market disruptions. They can protect themselves annually with federal insurance options that are available through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA).


“In recent years, the RMA has worked to expand crop insurance options for specialty crop growers in Florida,” says Matthew Wilkin, deputy director with the USDA RMA Valdosta regional office in Georgia. “We have released new policies such as the Production and Revenue History Strawberry, Pickling Cucumber, Florida Actual Production History Citrus Fruit, Nursery Value Select, Hurricane Insurance Protection – Wind Index, which also has a new tropical storm option, and Micro Farm policy.”

Growers put in too much time, sweat and financial investment to not have their crops protected in the case of a natural disaster.

“Federal crop insurance is an important risk-management solution for specialty crop growers, as it provides effective coverage that helps growers recover after severe weather and other naturally occurring events that can cause bad years of production,” Wilkin says. “Over the past five years, crop insurance has paid out nearly $530 million in indemnity payments for specialty crops. For this reason, RMA is committed to expanding crop insurance options for specialty crop producers to help promote sustainable growth for the industry and ensure that a critical safety net is available for the greatest number of producers.”

RMA has provided insurance coverage for many years to Florida’s fruit tree producers and growers of tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet corn, blueberries, peaches, potatoes, cabbage and pecans. It has also released expanded coverage options for strawberry growers. They are at risk because planting season usually coincides with the latter part of hurricane season. They are also vulnerable to potential cold snaps in the winter and freeze events in the first part of spring.

“RMA developed the Production and Revenue History (PRH) plan of insurance to target specialty crops that lack viable public price information. PRH offers producers of specialty crops a choice between yield protection or one of two plans of revenue protection,” Wilkin says. “A key feature of the plan is that the coverage is based on the producer’s personal yield and revenue history, which makes for a much more accurate and tailored insurance guarantee for the producer.”

The plan was first implemented for strawberries in specific Florida counties for the 2021 season. RMA is working to expand the plan to include additional crops and areas in the state.


The RMA is also researching the development of a weather index insurance plan that would cover specialty crops across the United States. Weather often serves as the main threat to a crop’s success in Florida.

Hurricane Ian last September hurt blueberry producers in southern Florida, delayed strawberry plantings and disrupted sweet corn production
in the state.

The prolonged days of sub-freezing temperatures last Christmas impacted the cold-hardy citrus in the northern part of the state. A weather index plan would help insure specialty crops against certain weather events. The plan would potentially be designed to insure against weather perils based on indexed weather station data. This is like the existing rainfall index products that use a rainfall index to determine lack of precipitation for coverage purposes but does not measure the producer’s direct production or loss.

The RMA is also developing a program that would cover plants produced in a controlled environment when impacted by a disease that occurs in the facility. It would be made available in select states and counties for a future crop year.

Any developed program must undergo a review and approval process by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board of directors before it can be made available.


The RMA was created in 1996 and serves producers through market-based risk-management tools that strengthen the economic stability of agricultural producers and rural communities.

“In addition to serving specialty crop producers through the development of effective, risk-management tools, RMA continually conducts outreach with producers and groups representing producers of agricultural commodities to improve producers’ awareness of available risk-management products and identify unmet risk-management needs,” Wilkin says.

The RMA has a specialty crop webpage that provides information on crops currently covered by crop insurance, upcoming outreach to the specialty crop industry, fact sheets, annual specialty crop reports and the specialty crop liaison for each regional office. Growers should reach out to their local specialty crop liaison if they have any questions concerning specialty crops.