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Hirono Announces USDA Insurance for Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage Crop Land in Hawaii

~ Heeding call from Hirono, USDA expands PRF insurance to cover up to 600,000 acres for livestock producers on Hawaii Island ~

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) announced that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA) is expanding Pasture, Rangeland, and Forage (PRF) rainfall index insurance to include Hawaii, for the first time ever, beginning in 2025. The PRF insurance program protects livestock producers against feed loss due to lack of precipitation, and will provide producers on Hawaii Island with coverage for grazing acres. The program could cover nearly 600,000 eligible acres of land on Hawaii Island, totaling $13 million in coverage. This announcement follows a letter Senator Hirono sent in 2022 to USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, requesting the USDA assess opportunities to offer the PRF insurance plan to livestock producers in Hawaii.

“The expansion of the PRF program in Hawaii is an important step in promoting sustainability in our food and agricultural systems,” said Senator Hirono. “As Hawaii works to decrease reliance on imported goods, this program will help to provide resources and protection for grazing acres. I’m glad that USDA will now include Hawaii in this insurance coverage and I will continue working to support our local farmers and ranchers.”

“The Pasture, Rangeland, Forage Insurance is an insurance program that has helped ranchers across the United States to insure their grazing acres against rainfall volatility,” said Nicole Galase, Managing Director of the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council. “Ranchers in Hawaii did not have access to this beneficial program, but we are pleased that the USDA RMA worked with Hawaii's climate and weather scientists and ranchers on the ground to develop a program that fits Hawaii's unique and varied topography. We look forward to Hawaii Island ranchers getting access to this program in 2025 and eagerly anticipate the program to be available to livestock producers on all islands soon.”

“We are always looking at the unique needs and situations that our producers have in different parts of the country so that we can adjust and develop crop insurance resources for their particular situations,” said RMA Administrator Marcia Bunger. “Rather than relying on a blanket across-the-country approach, we looked at ways to collect and analyze weather information and outcomes specific to our producers in Hawaii.” 

PRF is designed to provide insurance coverage on pasture, rangeland, and forage acres. The program uses a rainfall index to determine precipitation for coverage purposes and does not measure production or product loss. The PRF program helps protect a producer’s operation from forage loss risks due to the lack of precipitation. It does not insure against ongoing or severe drought, as the coverage is based on expected precipitation during specific intervals.

The PRF expansion is also part of other efforts to increase and enhance insurance options for Hawaii producers. For example, in 2023, RMA launched a targeted outreach effort in Hawaii to raise awareness of Whole-Farm Revenue Protection and Micro Farm.

As a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee, Senator Hirono has championed legislation to protect Hawaii’s environment, fish, wildlife, and plants, while also working to support local farmers and agriculture. In September 2023, Senator Hirono announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is awarding over $3.5 million to the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (HDOA). The grants, made possible through the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program (MGFSP), will provide support for small-scale gardening, herding, and livestock operations to increase the quantity and quality of locally-grown food in communities experiencing food insecurity.