Making the most of crop insurance this year
This year is one to remember. Whether it was the soggy spring that delayed farmers from getting into their fields to plant or the humid summer, followed by a battery of late-summer storms wrecking hail and wind damage on already distressed crops,...
This year is one to remember. Whether it was the soggy spring that delayed farmers from getting into their fields to plant or the humid summer, followed by a battery of late-summer storms wrecking hail and wind damage on already distressed crops, 2019 will not be quickly forgotten.
Crop insurance is meant to protect growers from potential profit loss, but is often times the last task on a long list of a grower's responsibilities. According to crop insurance agents Todd Hottovy and Matt Allen, the most important decisions for crop insurance come about in February.
"Knowing your soil, varieties of seed and field history are the best indicators growers can bring to their agent when choosing coverage," Allen said.
Allen has been an agent for 10 years at Farmers Agency in Elbow Lake, Minn.
Preparing for fall, growers should meet with their agents to determine where their revenue will be, and what their coverage level is. From there, growers should know their expenses per acre, this comes from keeping diligent records and tracking acres during the growing season all the way through harvest.
"A lot of growers are unsure of this, which makes it difficult to suggest the best plan of coverage," Allen said. "The growers that do the best are the ones who keep good records."
Record keeping was a virtue echoed by Hottovy, an agent with Hottovy Insurance in Morris, Minn.
"These days, it's pretty easy to get records," he said. "With precision planting, there's a report in the system that can be pulled, or combine records work, too. If the grain is being hauled to town, keep the receipt. It's never too early to start keeping accurate records."
Another key factor in a successful insurance experience is communication.
"Communication is so important," said Allen. "Having a relationship with your agent so there are no surprises when claim time comes, that's the best case-scenario. Growers who communicate well with their agents have a lot less heartache than their counterparts." Hottovy agreed.
"Communication is such a big factor," he said. "On a year like 2019, I talk to growers probably 10 times throughout the year just to touch base and figure out how things are going. On a regular year, four times is more common, but the more the better, always."
The bean crop this year cannot be brought up without talking about the white mold epidemic.
"We're seeing a lot of (white mold), which is an issue," Allen said. "It's a good time for growers to analyze what their history is, and if they have soil susceptible to the disease, or if it is something to do with the variety of seed they planted, to prevent it in the coming years."
In corn, Hottovy is seeing a large amount of wind and hail damage in southwestern Minnesota.
"I'd have to say this year is in the top five for worst years of hail damage that I've seen," Hottovy said, adding that a lot of fields went unplanted to the south.
"But some of the crop that did go in isn't looking too bad," he said. "It's a good year for tiled ground to prove its worth."
Which brings up the timing issue. Colder weather is on its way and the corn in west-central Minnesota is not ready.
"The corn just needs time," Allen said. "We are going to see a lot of wet corn this year, and a lot of issues if we don't dry out before a freeze."
Low prices also have plagued the markets this year, causing growers to hang on to last year's crop.
"A lot of growers are also carrying grain from last year because of the low prices," Allen said. "It's so important to know how many bushels from last year's harvest are left in the bin before we begin this harvest season. If this is skipped, there could be an issue with coverage."
When it comes to crop insurance, there is no "one-size-fits-all" solution.
"It's important for farmers to know what they have, and keeping records is the best way to know for sure," Allen said. "It also makes it easier for the agent to interpret what they have and suggest the best plan for them."