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A crop year is the period of time it takes to go from one harvest to the next harvest. A crop year can approximately a calendar year in length, if crops are only planted once per year. However, in some climates there can be two crop years within a calendar year.
A commodity crop is often referred to by the year it was harvested, or will be harvested, simply because this provides a base reference for everyone. Some crops, due to weather or other conditions, will be more desirable in one year than they will be in another year.
In some climates, it may be possible to plant a commodity crop, such as corn, in November or December. It is harvested the next year in the spring. Then, after harvest, it is possible to put in another planting for harvest in the fall. Though the crops were harvested at different times of the year, they will be designated as being in the same crop year.
In the case of crop insurance, a crop year can mean something different entirely. Many times, insurance companies run what they term a crop year to coincide with their fiscal year. This usually runs from 1 July, to 30 June of the next year.
Crop insurance uses this method of defining a crop year simply as a bookkeeping matter. Due to the fact that most claims, especially in the corn and grain belts, often come in after the first of July, it makes it easier for insurance companies to keep claims and payments in the same fiscal year as much as possible.
A crop year, whether in the insurance sense or the production sense, is different than a crop marketing period, which lasts 12 months from the date of harvest, no matter when the next harvest takes place. In many cases, the two may be of roughly equal time periods, however.