US cuts crop insurance rates for soybeans, rice despite drought

Corn, cotton, sorghum, spring wheat rates revised too

* USDA will phase in changes to cushion drought impact

* Agency expects little impact on 2013 planting decisions

WASHINGTON, Nov 28 (Reuters) – The U.S. government has ordered crop insurers to charge lower premiums to soybean growers for the second year in a row as part of rate revisions for six major crops, even as many farmers collect on claims following this year’s severe drought.

The changes are part of an Agriculture Department project to improve the actuarial soundness of the crop insurance program, which is federally subsidized but privately run.

Lenders often require insurance or other collateral to be pledged by farmers to assure repayment of farm operating loans. USDA pays 62 cents of each $1 in premiums, which totaled $11 billion this year.

USDA’s Risk Management Agency on Wednesday said that the revised rates are not expected to affect planting decisions among various crops in 2013.

The new rates will be phased in “to limit year-to-year premium changes and potential increases due to losses experienced in 2012 as a result of drought,” the agency said.

Indemnities for crop losses could hit a record $20 billion this year following the worst drought in half a century, analysts say, double the mark set in 2011. So far, $6.3 billion has been paid out on insurance policies.

Overall, premiums for soybeans will fall by 6 percent and for rice by 8 percent for 2013 crops while the premium for spring-planted wheat will rise by 4 percent.

Corn, cotton and grain sorghum premiums will decline in the core growing states for those crops but will rise in outlying states. The same pattern applies to soybeans,…