The Micro Farm Program: A USDA crop insurance program that can benefit beekeepers

This crop insurance program can help small-scale producers like beekeepers manage financial risk.

Honey bees on comb with nectar and honey.
Photo by Ana Heck, MSU Extension

About the Micro Farm Program

Beekeepers know that unavoidable natural causes can have a huge impact on colony health and production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers risk management programs, and its Micro Farm Program may be a good fit for many beekeeping operations with up to $350,000 in revenue. This subsidized program can help beekeepers mitigate risk, especially in situations where weather or market conditions can impact production and revenue.

The Micro Farm Program protects against revenue losses due to unavoidable natural causes or local market price decline. For example, beekeepers who lose production and revenue due to drought, cool/wet weather, or excessive rainfall may be eligible to file a claim. Beekeepers may also be able to file a claim if they lose revenue due to honey bee pests and diseases if they can show that they took steps to properly manage the issue. Losses due to failure or breakdown of equipment, vandalism or pesticide exposure are not insurable.

The Micro Farm Program allows all farm commodities to be under one insurance policy, and added value from post-production activities like packaging or processing is insurable. For example, honey can be insured at the price it is sold at market, not just at the bulk honey price after it is extracted. Revenue from sales of hive products, such as candles, lip balms or lotions, and from livestock, such as nucleus colonies and queens, can also be insured.

Many beekeeping operations may find that the Micro Farm Program is a good fit for their operations. For example, beekeepers who keep bees as a side business may want to avoid using their primary job’s income to subsidize losses from their beekeeping operation. The program benefits small operations that are debt leveraged or are considering borrowing money because many banks look positively at risk management programs. Beekeeping operations that are growing in size may also benefit from the program. Growing can be a tough and scary time, but knowing a portion of your expected revenue is covered can help the beekeeper sleep at night.

The Micro Farm Program is a new, pilot program. It may change in future years. To learn more about this program, please read the Micro Farm Program National Fact Sheet.

Changes to the program for the 2023 policy year

Operations that make up to $350,000 in approved revenue are now eligible for the program, which is an increase from last year’s $100,000 limit. Another change to the program this year is that there is a revenue cup for carry over policies. It prevents a disaster year from causing more than a 10% drop in year-over-year approved revenue. Operations that carry the coverage over to the next year will be eligible for up to $400,000 in approved revenue.

Who is eligible to apply for the Micro Farm Program?

Producers must make less than $350,000 (based on a three-to-five-year average) in approved revenue to apply to the Micro Farm Program. If you don’t qualify because your revenue is greater than $350,000, you may be interested in other USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) programs like Whole-Farm Revenue Protection. (Producers carrying over a policy will be allowed up to $400,000 in approved revenue.)

People who purchase a beekeeping operation can use previous tax records from before the operation was purchased so long as a minimum of 90% of the operation was purchased. Producers must also have tax records and sales records for at least 2020-2022. They cannot be vertically integrated. For example, a beekeeper who has one operation for honey production and another separate operation for activities like marketing, packing and sales would not be eligible for the Micro Farm Program.

Examples of Micro Farm costs and coverage

To provide readers with a rough understanding of the Micro Farm Program’s costs and coverage, a few examples are offered below. Many factors influence an operation’s policy, including county, past revenue and the coverage level chosen (50-85%). The authors selected 75% coverage for the examples below, but other levels of coverage and premiums are available. Please work with your licensed agent to find a quote for your specific situation.

Beekeeping Business A: Lower income

County: Genesee, Michigan
Coverage: 75%
Past revenue: $3,000 in 2018, $5,000 in 2019, $8,000 in 2020, $10,000 in 2021, $17,000 in 2022
Annual premium: $228 plus a $30 administration fee
Guaranteed crop revenue in 2023: $8,750
If revenue from the crop (and products made from the crop) falls below $8,750, the beekeeper is owed the difference as a claim/indemnity. For example, if Beekeeping Business A only earns $5,000 in 2022 due to a qualifying weather event, then the policy will pay it $3,750.

Beekeeping Business B: Higher income, fewer than five years of history

County: Washtenaw, Michigan
Coverage: 75%
Past revenue: $25,000 in 2020, $20,000 in 2021, $30,000 in 2022
Annual premium: $474 plus a $30 administration fee
Guaranteed crop revenue in 2022: $17, 813
Once the producer has five years of historical records, it may receive additional options to modify its average.

Beekeeping Business C: Higher income

County: Grand Traverse, Michigan
Coverage: 75%
Past revenue: $40,000 in 2018, $45,000 in 2019, $55,000 in 2020, $50,000 in 2021, $60,000 in 2022
Annual premium: $1,048 premium annually plus a $30 administration fee
Guaranteed crop revenue in 2022: $41,250

Steps for applying to the Micro Farm Program

Step 1: Review the Micro Farm Program National Fact Sheet.

Step 2: Use the USDA RMA agent locator tool to find a licensed agent to determine your eligibility and what documents your farm will need to file an application.

Step 3: Refer to the Micro Farm Program National Fact Sheet and your agent’s instructions to collect the farm business records you will need for your application.

Step 4: Schedule an appointment with your licensed agent to file your application before the March 15, 2023, deadline. Late fiscal tax filers would have needed to sign up by Nov. 20, 2022.

Those interested in applying for a Micro Farm Program are encouraged to meet with a licensed insurance agent well ahead of the application deadline. The agent will need time to review your farm needs, provide a quote and prepare documents.

For more information and resources to support your farm business, visit Michigan State University Extension’s Farm Business website.

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