Risk Management Agency Success Story – The Pasture Range and Forage Program Saved Farmers from Complete Devastation
Feb 2015 - Extreme weather can put a rancher out of business, or, with the right risk management tool, teach the lesson of how to plan. Even experienced ranchers like Chuck and Ruth Coffey know the difficulties of feeding cattle when drought occurs, like it did back in 2011 and 2012.
Chuck, a former agriculture teacher at Murray State College in Oklahoma, also held a Pasture and Rangeland Consulting position with the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, before taking an early retirement to invest more time in the ranching business.
Back in 2007, Chuck started the CC Cattle Company with forty head of cattle in Oklahoma. In 2009, he and his wife, Ruth, expanded the CC Cattle Company by incorporating Ruth’s family’s cow/calf ranch, also in Oklahoma. The Coffeys currently run 900 head of cows in their operation and own and operate over 20,000 acres of grassland in Carter and Murray counties in south central Oklahoma.
The 2011 drought years taught Chuck to prepare and plan for any future droughts down the road. When the drought hit, The Coffeys were forced to sell 240 cows directly to the packer because they did not have enough pasture, feed, or water to keep their cows. After the 2011 drought, they de-stocked the ranch and leased grass in eastern Oklahoma in order to give his own grass time to grow back. In 2012, they had to buy hay from as far away as North Dakota to maintain his cattle at farm in Oklahoma. Those were two costly events.
The Coffeys credit the Pasture, Rangeland and Forage (PRF) program, offered through the federal crop insurance program, as their risk management strategy for helping them keep this fifth generation ranching operation together. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) manages the PRF program that provides insurance protection of financial risk and assists producers/ranchers with feed in the form of grazing and haying due to the lack of rainfall under the Rainfall Index and other losses under the Vegetation Index.
Private-sector insurance companies sell and service the policies. RMA develops and/or approves the premium rate, administers premium and expense subsidies, approves and supports products, and reinsures the companies. RMA also sponsors educational and outreach programs and seminars on the general topic of risk management.
The Coffeys like PRF because they can adjust the coverage intervals to match their forage cycles. According to Chuck, “If you are leveraged whatsoever, PRF insurance is a life saver. It prevents a disaster from occurring.” He added that, “PRF does not encourage overstocking. It encourages a producer to modestly stock and still have a safety net in place.” Chuck also praises the PRF program for the prompt payment of premiums. He stated that it worked off of a 60-90 day delay and that was a great turn-around time for a government program.
Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) covers approximately 55 percent of all U.S. land. Forage grows differently in different areas, so it's important for farmers and ranchers to know which types and techniques work best for their region. More information on insurance programs for PRF and the utilization of various indexing systems to determine conditions is available on RMA’s website at: www.rma.usda.gov/policies/pasturerangeforage/.
With a risk management solution that fits their needs, Chuck and Ruth Coffey are looking forward to a bright future for themselves and their three children.