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Published May 28, 2013, 10:12 AM

Documenting crop losses

One of the easiest ways for farmers to ensure they don’t bear the costs of an unforeseen crop loss is to record and document crop damage when it happens. This doesn’t mean two years, two months or even two weeks after it happens; it means when the damage is happening or immediately after.

By: Derrick Braaten, Agweek

BISMARCK, N.D. — Although it is a topic that you have seen from us before, it is worth a revisit, especially with the unusual spring weather we have experienced. Crop damage occurs in a variety of different situations: excess rain that prevents timely planting, hail, chemical spray drift, livestock damage or poor yield from bad seed.

Regardless of the circumstances, the same general rules apply to document the losses to accurately prove the damages to an insurance company or a court.

One of the easiest ways for farmers to ensure they don’t bear the costs of an unforeseen crop loss is to record and document crop damage when it happens. This doesn’t mean two years, two months or even two weeks after it happens; it means when the damage is happening or immediately after. Most crop insurance policies require that you notify your agent of potential loss within 72 hours of initial discovery. For prevented planting claims, notice of loss must be within 72 hours from the final planting date for each insured crop.

A daily log is an invaluable tool to document prevent plant claims and other crop damage claims. Keep a daily record of the weather and precipitation, the work done in each field or the reasons that work could not be done that day, and any contact with your crop insurance agent.

Another key to recovery for crop loss is using accurate methods to measure the loss. Do not do a quick visual scan of the field and guess how many bushels you’re out, or grab a buddy and walk off the acreage together. As accurate as you may be, these methods will not convince an insurance company or a court.

Instead, have a crop appraisal done at the time of damage and keep a detailed harvest log, recording the number of bushels or pounds that come off each field, date of harvest, vehicle or wagon weight, moisture and estimated volume per load.

Identify specifically where the production for each field ended up; sold, placed in commercial storage, stored on-farm, or fed to livestock. If sold, indicate on each scale ticket which field it came from.

A load summary or settlement sheet must accompany the individual load tickets, as well; the individual load tickets themselves won’t be sufficient to show evidence of delivery. If the crop is stored, level the bins between each unit and mark the level for each unit on the outside of the bin.

Also, avoid mixing past years’ crops with the new one if possible; if not, make sure to mark the level of the old before the new crop is put in. If the crop is fed to livestock, keep a log of what crop is fed on which day, which field it came from and quantity.

Another method used to document crop loss is pictures, pictures and more pictures. It may seem obvious, but the best way to demonstrate the damage and the extent of that damage is to have a visual image. Begin taking pictures of the damage upon discovery and continue taking pictures periodically.

This is especially important where there is damage from chemical spray drift. For each picture or group of pictures, mark on a white board or sheet of cardboard the date, field name or number and crop, which will give the viewer unmistakable proof of the damage.

Digital cameras are also available to record the GPS location along with time and date of the photo. Taking the time to make these steps a part of your farming practice will be worth it in the end.

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