Aflatoxin Testing for Crop Insurance (national policy)

Issue: Frequently, producers’ grain is docked because of the presence of aflatoxin when offered for sale at the local elevator although the grain is subsequently found to be free of the fungus when samples are submitted for crop insurance reimbursement. In Texas, state officials have developed a voluntary program to remedy this situation. The One Sample Strategy (OSS), administered by the Office of the Texas State Chemist (OTSC), allows grain elevators choosing to participate to use the same aflatoxin test results for both grading and for valuing an insured loss. This single test procedure is conducted at the initial point of sale and the test result is then tagged to the grain to satisfy regulatory requirements and to collect insurance indemnities.

Background: Aflatoxin is a naturally produced mycotoxin from the Aspergillus family of molds that are common and widespread in nature. These molds are found in the soil, decaying vegetation, hay and decaying grain. Stressful growing conditions, like drought or intense heat, can increase the likelihood of aflatoxin problems in harvested grain. Aflatoxin is not uniformly distributed in each ear of corn, each plant or across a corn field. Its presence, measured in parts per billion, means that just a few kernels in a sample could trigger a positive aflatoxin test result. Currently, many elevators test a truckload of corn multiple times, varying the sample collection points. In fact, a 30 percent variation in levels among aflatoxin samples is common when a truckload of corn is tested multiple times using official procedures. When the official procedures are not followed, a 60 percent variation in aflatoxin samples can occur. Consequently, each separate sample is likely to yield different results that create uncertainty in testing results, and on though to the corn market.