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Published September 17, 2012, 10:44 AM

Yield tracking

The harvest season is upon us, and it presents the opportunity for some lawyerly advice on record-keeping intended to make your life easier in the long run.

By: Derrick Braaten , Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — The harvest season is upon us, and it presents the opportunity for some lawyerly advice on record-keeping intended to make your life easier in the long run.

Most farmers likely have developed their own system for tracking yields for crop insurance and farm management purposes, whether it be a high-tech yield monitor or a notepad and pen tucked in a shirt pocket. Too often, we see that although the system served its initial purpose, it does not provide the farmer with a solid base of yield information if crop insurance or crop damage issues, such as chemical spray drift, hail, flood, livestock damage or other issues, arise. Because it is difficult, if not impossible, to anticipate whether a seemingly simple crop insurance claim or spray drift incident is going to turn into a full-blown lawsuit, it is important to implement good record-keeping procedures to track yields and protect yourself in the future.

In almost any crop insurance, crop damage or soil damage dispute, the crop yield for the tract for the current year and several years prior is a key issue. Because of this, it is crucial to keep accurate records to verify the production that comes off of each tract and, as your child’s math teacher would say, to show your work. The tips below provide some guidance on how to gather and keep that information for easy use in the future:

• Keep yield data from each load within a tract.

We have had one farmer tell us that he wrote down each load that came off the field, but he threw it away when harvest was over. Don’t throw it away; that is the important information that may be crucial to have in the future.

For each load of production, note the crop, the field name or number, the date of harvest, the vehicle or wagon, weight, and moisture per load. In the event of damage such as spray drift, segregate and weigh separately the production from the damaged portion and the healthy portion to the extent possible.

In instances where different farming practices are utilized or there are different types or varieties of crop within one tract, production also should be segregated and tracked separately when practicable. Similarly, if a crop is insured for different purposes, as corn grain versus silage for example, the production also should be tracked separately.

• Utilize yield monitors.

If you have the technology, learn how to use it. Be sure to calibrate your equipment and backup the data so it can be utilized in later years. Any data printed from the monitors must identify the field location, crop, date and pounds or bushels harvested.

• Follow up.

Keep records of where each load is delivered, whether it is stored or trucked straight to the elevator. Keep records of all load summaries and settlement sheets and mark scale tickets by field number or name. If production is being fed to livestock, keep daily records of what is being fed and the amount.

• Verify data from each source to make sure the yields match up.

If you are using different methods to monitor your production, such as a yield monitor and manual calculation, make sure to verify that the numbers match and troubleshoot for problems if they do not.

Although the implementation of these procedures probably creates more work for the already overworked farmer, it is important to keep in mind that sitting with a lawyer in a stuffy office piecing together this information for the past five crop years is considerably more painful.