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It seems a bit ironic, or maybe even absurd, to be talking about ‘rainfall insurance’ for beekeepers after the soaking deluges of hurricanes Harvey and Irma. On the other hand, parts of the West and Northern Plains have been very dry this year, with a serious adverse impact on honey production.

Recognizing the need for a risk management product specifically for beekeepers, and knowing that USDA would likely reduce its support for more traditional agricultural stabilization programs like price supports and direct commodity producer payments, I started working on crop insurance for beekeepers back in the early 0s. Unfortunately, initial attempts to develop a classic crop insurance paradigm, based upon honey yields falling below a particular threshold proved difficult. Peculiar features of apiculture, where colonies can be picked up and moved around the country, and are more or less interchangeable and non-individually identifiable (corn fields don’t do that!) is one reason why coming up with a viable crop insurance paradigm for apiculture proved difficult. In addition, adjustment of losses for insured colonies would entail an overwhelming burden for insurance adjusters, as they would have to visit and score hundreds or maybe thousands of colonies. All of this made the USDA uncomfortable with moving forward with a traditional crop insurance concept for bees, beekeepers and honey. Thus, the initial effort, involving many people, resulted in an exhaustive study that culminated in a recommendation that USDA not move forward with a traditional yield-per-colony crop insurance product for beekeepers.

But not all was lost. A year or so later, I partnered up with a Texas Aggie friend, and crop insurance savant, Jason Schickedanz. Jason had struggled valiantly to find a way forward with the first honey or beekeeping crop insurance concept, but he didn’t want to give up. Together we began to explore the possibilities of developing a new program based upon the then recently-approved pasture and rangeland crop insurance for ranchers. Jason was instrumental, along with his co-worker Kerry Shropshire, in developing the pasture and rangeland crop insurance program and they were ready to try a similar concept for beekeepers. Jason immediately recognized how the pasture and rangeland product would translate into beekeeping, and within the year we were in serious discussions with the Risk Management Agency and the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation within the USDA. Within RMA and FCIC we began to design and eventually gain approval for government subsidies within a rainfall insurance product for beekeepers, very much like the previously approved pasture and rangeland product for ranchers.

Eventually the issues that were peculiar to beekeeping were ironed out, and the USDA RMA and FCIC approved 2 pilot programs for apiculture (that’s beekeeping!). After several years in pilot programs in select states, the USDA recently approved Jason’s request to expand the rainfall index program for nationwide implementation – so wherever you are in the continental US, you can now participate.

Do you know the basics? Are you interested in more information? As the design-build team of apiculture crop insurance Jason and I can bring a level of understanding to how this program can best benefit you and your company.

In a nutshell: If you have an interest in the agricultural production from honey bee colonies, then you can probably obtain apiculture rainfall index insurance for your hives. Here is the baseline design and historical performance of the program for beekeepers:

What is the insured metric? (Hint, it’s not honey). Rainfall, as measured by the US government (NOAA), at specific weather data collection points, is recorded by the government and assigned to geographic grids. You sign up for participation by locating your apiaries and noting the grid they are in using lat/long or GPS coordinates or pointing your cursor to a point on a USDA RMA map. You then indicate the number of colonies you want to insure at that point or apiary, and then after considering a variety of options you will choose the coverage level considering the productivity factors for the colonies that you insure.

If you choose to participate in the apiculture rainfall program, you are not carrying all the premium liability. Just like all other crop insurance programs, the USDA subsidizes the producer premium, so a program participant pays only about half the total premium needed to provide sufficient actuarial reserves to pay claims, and on average program participants will be paid about 2X their potential premium liabilities in indemnities (performance varies by year and location of course). Let that sink in for minute – yes, that is right, for every dollar you put into the program, then long term participants can expect to get about twice that amount back in program indemnities or payments.

Obviously, since I worked with Jason and his company, AgForce, in developing the program, I have been a participant in the program since its inception. AgForce actually owns the crop insurance program and USDA has approved it as a program in its risk management program portfolio.

If you want more info or help, you can contact me, or go to for more information, or link to RMA’s web based rainfall index grid locator here: to find the grids where your apiaries are located. You can also examine how you would have faired if you had used the program in previous years.

The latest press release regarding the program from RMA is below along with an example of how Joe Rancher’s policy worked for him over the years.

Risk Management Agency

1400 Independence Ave, SW, Stop 0801 Washington, DC 20250

Release No.: RMA-17-071

Contact: Sean Patrick (202) 720-0106

Apiculture Insurance Expanded to More States

Increased safety net available to beekeepers in 48 states.

WASHINGTON, July 27, 2017 – Crop insurance for beekeeper operations has been expanded to include 19 additional states and now spans the entire 48 contiguous states. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) today announced changes to the Apiculture Pilot Insurance (API) plan, ensuring greater protection for the producers’ honey, pollen collection, wax, and breeding stock.

“Expanding this coverage so that more producers can participate in the Federal crop insurance program strengthens the rural economy through a broader farm safety net,” said RMA Acting Administrator Heather Manzano. “This provides increased support for beekeepers who play a critical role in agriculture.”

Apiculture systems are diverse, with varying types of plant species and climate conditions. API is designed to cover the unique precipitation requirements of different regions across the nation.

In addition to expanding API coverage, the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation Board of Directors voted to replace the satellite-based Vegetation Index with the precipitation-based Rainfall Index for API policies. Available since 2009, API was developed through the Federal Crop Insurance Act’s 508(h) process, which allows private submitters to develop innovative insurance products to meet the needs of producers.

Producers have until Nov. 15, 2017 to enroll in API coverage for the 2018 crop year. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private crop insurance agents.

Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at