February 15, 2019

SCO: An Insurance Option Available to More Farmers


Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) was introduced in the 2014 Farm Bill but was limited to acres where Price Loss Coverage (PLC) was the commodity title program choice. More farmers likely will be choosing PLC for the 2019 and 2020 marketing years, leading to more acres being eligible for SCO. SCO may be attractive to those farmers who find the costs of Revenue Protection (RP) at an 85% coverage level too high. Farmers interested in SCO should discuss eligibility options with crop insurance agents.

by Gary Schnitkey

SCO Background
SCO is available to farmers who choose PLC for receiving commodity title payments. SCO is not available when Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) is chosen (farmdoc daily, June 16, 2015). ARC was selected on over 90% of the base acres in corn and soybeans under the 2014 Farm Bill. As a result, SCO was not an option for most Midwest farmers. Similar to the 2014 Farm Bill, the 2018 Farm Bill again gives a choice between PLC and ARC. More farmers likely will choose PLC for 2019 and 2020, increasing the acres eligible for SCO.
SCO provides protection in a band from 86% down to the coverage level of an underlying COMBO product. If, for example, a farmer selects a 75% Revenue Protection (RP) product, SCO could be purchased from 86% to the 75% RP coverage level (see farmdoc daily, December 17, 2014; April 24, 2014).

The SCO band of coverage is based on county revenue given that the underlying Combo product is RP. That is, county revenue must fall below 86% of expected revenue before SCO makes a payment. As a result, the RP-SCO combination provides mixed coverage: Farm-level coverage is provided from the RP coverage level downward while county-level coverage is provided between 86% to the coverage level of the RP product.

The primary disadvantage of the RP-SCO combination is that the county-level coverage may not match losses on a farm. Sometimes a farm may have a loss while SCO will not trigger a payment. Conversely, it is possible for the farm not have a loss while the county-based SCO product triggers a payment.

Premiums under RP-SCO Combinations
The primary advantage of using SCO is lower farmer-paid premium. The costs of a RP-SCO combination usually will be lower than an 85% RP product when RP is purchased at less than 85% in the RP-SCO combination. Compared to RP 85%, the RP-SCO premium usually is lower for two reasons. First, county yields typically are less variable than farm yields, resulting in fewer payments for a county product than for a farm-level product at the same coverage level. Lower payments then result in a lower premium. Second, the premium assistance under SCO often is higher than for RP. SCO has a subsidy rate of 65%. For a product with an expected payment of \(1, the SCO farmer-paid premium will be about $.35 (\).35 = $1 expected payment x (1 – .65 subsidy rate)). The 65% subsidy rate is higher than all subsidy levels for basic and optional units when the coverage level is above 50% (see Table 1). The 65% SCO subsidy level also is higher than the subsidy level at an 85% coverage level given enterprise units.



Table 2 shows examples of RP-SCO combinations for Sangamon and Saline Counties in Illinois. Sangamon County is a relatively low risk county while Saline County has higher risk. Premiums are shown for corn (Panels A and B) and soybeans (Panels C and D). Relationships of premiums are the same for both counties and crops.



Take corn in Sangamon County as an example. An RP 85% product has a farmer-paid premium of $21.35 per acre (see Panel A of Table 2). SCO for an RP with an 85% coverage level has a $.79 premium. For an 85% RP coverage level, the RP-SCO combination has a $22.14 per acre premium. An RP-SCO combination with an 80% RP coverage leave has a $14.02 per acre premium, with $11.03 premium from RP 80% and $2.99 from SCO from 86% to 80%. RP-SCO combinations have lower farmer-paid premium as the RP coverage level is decreased. A $22.14 combined premium result for an 85% coverage level, $14.02 premium results for an 80% coverage level, a $9.43 premium results for a 75% coverage level, and so on.

Who Should Consider SCO Farmers purchasing RP at 85% coverage levels likely will not find SCO an attractive alternative. The SCO band from 86% to 85% coverage will provide little additional coverage. Any reduction of RP coverage level with an SCO band results in a crop insurance payment structure that is less correlated with losses on the insurance unit.

Farmers purchasing lower coverage levels could find SCO useful, particularly if the lower coverage level is selected so as to result in a lower farmer-paid premium. The farmer-paid premium for RP approximately doubles from the 75% coverage level to 80% coverage level. For example, soybean RP premium in Sangamon County goes from $2.93 per acre at a 75% coverage level to $5.78 at an 80% coverage level. Premiums again double from the 80% coverage level to the 85% coverage level. For soybeans in Sangamon County, RP premiums increase from $5.78 at an 80% coverage level to $11.68 at an 85% coverage level. A farmer currently at a 75% coverage level could include SCO for $2.53 additional premium, with the $5.46 premium for the RP-SCO combination being less than for a stand-alone RP 80% premium ($5.78) and RP 85% premium ($11.68). The addition of SCO to a RP 75% coverage level would improve coverage, providing county-level coverage above the 75% coverage level of the RP.


February 14, 2019

RIVIAN | All Electric Pickup Truck

Rivian Automotive LLC expects to build an electric plug-in pickup truck and SUV starting in 2020. Todd Gleason talks with Michael McHale about the startup company and its plans to produce the vehicles in Normal, Illinois. They also take up the impact electric vehicles are having on the automotive industry and potentially ethanol made from corn.


February 11, 2019

USDA Reports Provide Little Support for Corn and Soybeans

by Todd Hubbs, University of Illinois

The USDA finally released a set of highly anticipated reports on Friday. The results projected lower ending stocks for corn and soybeans during this marketing year. Despite lower ending stock forecasts, the results disappointed and produced a somewhat bearish outlook. The following discussion recaps developments in corn and soybean crop fundamentals coming out of the reports and price implications moving forward.

Corn ending stock projections for the 2018–19 marketing year came in at 1.735 billion bushels, down 46 million bushels from the December forecast. Reduced corn production in 2018 drove ending stocks lower despite a 165 million bushel reduction in total use during the marketing year. Corn production is down 1.4 percent from the November forecast at 14.4 billion bushels. The harvested acreage estimate of 81.7 million acres is down from the November forecast of 81.8 million acres. Average corn yield of 176.4 bushels per acre is 2.5 bushels lower than the November forecast. December 1 corn stocks came in at 11.952 billion bushels. Total disappearance came in near 4.62 billion bushels during the first quarter of the marketing year, up from last year’s first quarter use by approximately 280 million bushels. Despite the lower domestic supply numbers and stronger first quarter use, lower consumption forecasts in key categories provide little support for corn prices.

The WASDE report forecast for U.S. corn during 2018–19 lowered corn use projections for feed and residual use, ethanol crush, and other food and industrial uses. At 5.375 billion bushels, the projection for corn feed use and residual moved lower by 125 million bushels. The ethanol use forecast decreased by 25 million bushels to 5.575 billion bushels. The lower ethanol use reflected the slowing ethanol production levels over the last month. Food, seed, and industrial use other than ethanol saw the consumption forecast lowered 15 million bushels on reduced corn use for high fructose corn syrup, glucose, and dextrose. Corn export forecasts maintained the 2.45 billion bushels forecast in December. The potential for increased corn usage seems increasingly dependent on continued economic growth and the resolution of the current trade impasse.

World ending stocks for corn increased by almost 40 million bushels from December forecasts. The increase focused on stronger production in key growing areas. In particular, Argentine corn production forecasts totaled 1.81 billion bushels, up from last year’s 1.26 billion bushels. Brazil’s corn production forecast stayed at 3.72 billion bushels this year. In total, Brazil and Argentina production forecasts exceed 2017–18 production estimates by 1.04 billion bushels. Projections of corn exports from Argentina and Brazil sit at an additional 492 million bushels each above last marketing year. Given the increase in South American production, the evolution of crop conditions in the region bears monitoring as we move into 2019.

The forecast for soybean ending stocks fell to 910 million bushels. Despite the 45 million bushel reduction to ending stocks, the current projection remains record high. Soybean production came in 56 million bushels lower than the November forecast at 4.54 billion. The harvested acreage estimate of 88.1 million acres is down from the November forecast of 88.3 million acres. Average soybean yield of 51.6 bushels per acre is 0.5 bushels lower than the November forecast. While the expected reduction in soybean production materialized, consumption continues to exhibit strong crush levels and weak exports this marketing year.

The WASDE report increased the soybean crush forecast by 10 million bushels to 2.09 billion bushels. The change in the crush projection reflects strong crush numbers through January. Soybean exports saw the forecast lowered by 25 million bushels to 1.875 billion bushels. Considerable uncertainty remains in export potential in 2019 as the sporadic nature of trade talks with China unfold. Total use fell by 15 million bushels on weaker export projections to 4.092 billion bushels. The consumption for this marketing year holds the potential for deterioration if the trade war escalates and increased competition out of South America materializes.

World production forecasts for the marketing year decreased by 301million bushels to 13.26 billion bushels on the smaller U.S. and Brazilian crops. The Brazilian soybean production forecast decreased by 183.72 million bushels over the December forecast to 4.3 billion bushels. Reports out of Brazil indicate this number may fall further before the final crop estimate is complete. The Argentinian soybean production forecast fell slightly to 2.02 billion bushels on reduced acreage. The Brazilian soybean export forecast dropped by 55 million bushels reflecting the decreased crop production levels. Forecasts for Brazil and Argentina soybean exports sit at 3.15 billion bushels over the marketing year, up from last marketing year’s estimate of 2.88 billion bushels.

While the ending stock projections for both crops fell, the USDA maintained price projections for the marketing year at the December mid-point ranges for corn and soybeans at $3.60 and $8.60 respectively. Barring a resolution to the trade issues with China or a significant deterioration in the South American crop, soybean prices are untenable at current levels. Corn prices appear set to remain flat and range bound until the March Prospective Planting reports provide an initial indication of crop acreage in 2019.


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