The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Risk Management Agency announced Oct. 24 a new pilot program of insurance for pistachios beginning with the 2012 crop year.

The Pistachio Crop Insurance Program will make crop insurance available to growers in 21 counties in California, two counties in Arizona, and one in New Mexico. The specific counties and other program details will be released in the near future.

The program was approved by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) Board of Directors on Sept. 22, 2011. RMA operates and manages the FCIC.

The pilot Pistachio Crop Insurance Program is a two-year production-based policy featuring a new approach for addressing alternate bearing commodities like pistachios where production can vary significantly with years of low production, or "off" years, typically followed by years of high production, or "on" years.

Producers will elect a coverage level and price election percentage which remains in effect for the two-year life of the policy. Since production is reported annually, however, the approved yield is recalculated, adjusting to account for cases where the unit is expected to be either on or off for the following year. Any losses incurred will be indemnified on a year-to-year basis.

Since pistachio production often displays large year-to-year yield swings, T-Yields are not available so the policyholder must provide at least four years of production records from the acreage.

Pistachio orchards will be insurable after 90 percent of the trees have reached at least the tenth growing season after set out. The alternate bearing adjustment does not apply until the 12th growing season.

The sales closing date will be Dec. 31, 2011.