Sunflower growers get insurance against low prices

(AP) _ The federal government is expanding an insurance program for sunflower farmers, two years after almost killing it. The move could help protect growers against fluctuating prices and low crop yields.

It also could be especially important this year as sunflower seed prices continue to fall, and some farmers contemplate planting fewer flowers. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects an 18 percent decrease in the number of sunflower acres planted nationwide. A small sunflower crop could mean higher prices at the grocery store for cooking oil, snacks and other items made with sunflower seeds. This year, the program is being expanded to Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska and Texas.

Dalhart-area sunflower farmer David Meyer says he looks forward to having a new insurance option for his sunflowers. He says he's already benefited from crop insurance that guaranteed him $8 a bushel on wheat. That commodity's seen a steep drop in price from record highs two years ago to about $6.25 a bushel. Meyer hopes he and other farmers in the Texas Panhandle will now have the same peace of mind with sunflowers.