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Crop insurance procedures following early season frost

By Gary A. Hachfeld, University of Minnesota Extension Educator, Ag Business Management

The early season frost in September caught many of us off guard. Damage to crops varied statewide but the fundamental question is, as a farmer, what should I do regarding a potential loss regarding my federal crop insurance? There are some basic procedures that one needs to follow in the event of a crop loss regardless of cause. This article outlines some of those procedures.

Following an early frost, it is very common for a farmer to utilize a given crop, such as corn, for an alternative use. That is, the corn was insured as grain and intended to be used as grain but due to the early frost, the farmer decides to chop the corn for silage. This could be the case for a number of crops. If this occurs, the farmer must contact their crop insurance agent before they begin to chop the crop for silage, a use other than what was intended. A crop insurance adjuster must evaluate the crop before harvest begins. If the adjuster cannot view the crop in a timely fashion, the farmer can go ahead and chop the field but they must leave a number of check strips for the adjuster to view at a later time. If a farmer decides to use a crop for something other than its intended use, always contact the insurance agent prior to harvest.

For grain such as corn and soybeans, there are some hints that will be helpful in the event of a crop loss. Those hints are as follows:
  • If at all possible, do not co-mingle new crop grain with grain from a previous year. This will make it easy for the insurance adjuster to measure bushels and extract a grain sample.
  • If space does not allow and you have to store the grain with grain from a previous year, measure the existing grain in the bin before adding new crop grain. That will enable the insurance adjuster to determine the bushels of new grain added.
Although most grain crops suffered some frost damage, it appears the crops should reach maturity. However, there will no doubt be some crop quality issues in addition to potential yield loss. That is, there may be crops with low test weight and other quality issues. One huge potential issue is mold in soybeans that were green or immature when harvested. Determining these types of losses is also part of the insurance adjuster's responsibility. Again, the adjuster's task of determining any type of loss will be made easier if new crop grain is stored separate from previous crop production.

Any indemnity or loss payment is calculated based upon several things. It depends upon the percentage level of insurance purchased. This sets the bushel threshold for determining a yield loss. The policy also includes parameters for quality determinations. Loss determination also depends upon what unit structure was selected when the insurance was purchased. If corn acres were included in a whole farm unit and the frost caused damage on only a small part of the total corn acres, odds are there will not be an indemnity payment. However, if the corn acres were insured under optional units, odds are greater that there might be a loss payment.

Bottom line is that if a farmer thinks they have a crop loss, contact the insurance agent as soon as possible. The farmer can begin harvest to see what crop yields and quality might be. That is fine. However, if there appears to be a loss of yield or quality, there is a limited amount of time after harvest to submit a claim to the insurance company. Staying in touch with the insurance agent, keeping them informed, and asking lots of question will help in getting the most benefit from the crop insurance purchased.
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