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John Shea, 202-690-0437

WASHINGTON, Sep 6, 2007 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency Administrator today announced the expansion of the availability of pasture, rangeland, forage crop insurance to additional states and counties over the next two years.

'Ranchers across the country have responded positively to this crop insurance program from the beginning,' said Risk Management Agency Administrator Eldon Gould. 'With this expansion, livestock producers in additional geographic areas -- including drought impacted land -- will have this valuable risk protection tool available.'

The expansion of the pasture, rangeland, forage (PRF) crop insurance program is scheduled to be phased in over a two-year period. Beginning with the 2008 crop year, the program will expand to encompass the entire states of Alabama and Wyoming as well as selected counties in South Dakota and the southern tier of counties in New York. In the 2009 crop year, the coverage will be further extended to include all counties of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Virginia.

PRF began in the 2007 crop year in selected counties in Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, Oklahoma Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas. When the incremental increase is complete in 2009, approximately 450 million acres of grazing and forage land will be eligible for coverage.

PRF is a group risk policy that covers livestock grazing and forage land. It is based on one of two indices; a Rainfall Index or a Vegetation Index. The Rainfall Index uses National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data. Insurance payments to a producer who suffers a loss are calculated on the deviation from normal precipitation within the area and time period selected. The Vegetation Index uses the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data from the U.S. Geological Survey Earth Resources Observation and Science data center. The NDVI is an alternative measure of vegetation greenness and correlates to vegetation conditions and productive capacity. In general, healthier plants are given the higher the NDVI value. As with the Rainfall Index, the losses calculated using the Vegetation Index are indemnified based on the deviation from normal.

The nationwide insurance coverage map is on the USDA Web site: This web site also has a mapping tool to locate which land is insurable. It also has historical data, coverage details and a premium calculator. Local crop insurance agents have more details. To find an agent, visit RMA's Web site,