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RMA: If weather delays your harvest, call your insurance agent

The weather seems to be breaking from this fall's wet, cool pattern this week in much of the nation's corn- and soybean-growing areas. Many farmers are going to be able to get closer to the finish line for the 2009 fall harvest this week.

But, there remain fields filled with grain that's just too wet to combine. And, as the calendar rolls into November, the harvest window's starting to slide closed. That adds up to the tough likelihood that some fields may not see combine tracks before winter sets in.

If the latter scenario rings true on your farm, you might want to give your crop insurance agent a call. On Monday, Shirley Pugh, public affairs director for the USDA Risk Management Agency (RMA) reported that losses incurred from harvest weather delays may make you eligible to harvest later and still be covered.

"Your crop insurance policy will cover loss of quality (as specified in the crop provisions), reduced yields and revenue losses if revenue coverage was chosen. The cost of drying the harvested crop is not covered," Pugh said Monday. "If you are unable to harvest by the calendar date for the End of the Insurance Period (EOIP) due to extreme wet or snowy conditions, you may request additional time to harvest beyond the calendar date for the EOIP, from your crop insurance company."

That means it's important to get in touch with your agent now to take the proper steps to avoid losing coverage because of harvest weather delays. The EOIP for corn and soybeans is December 10.

"The most important action you can do is to contact your crop insurance agent to report a loss, indicating your harvest is delayed because of adverse weather, which is an insured cause of loss," Pugh adds. "You must then continue to carry out normal and customary harvesting practices, if possible."

According to RMA, you must meet these conditions to be allowed additional harvest time:

  1. You give timely notice of loss to the crop insurance agent; and
  2. The crop insurance company determines and documents that the delay in harvest was due to an insured cause of loss; and
  3. You demonstrate to the crop insurance company that harvest was not possible due to insured causes; and
  4. The delay in harvest was not due to uninsured causes of loss, nor because you did not have sufficient equipment or manpower to harvest the crop by the calendar date for the EOIP.

"When the crop insurance company authorizes additional time to harvest, the calendar date for the EOIP is not extended. Rather, you are granted additional time to attempt to harvest the crop in order to settle any loss on the basis of harvested production," Pugh says. "Any additional damage to your crop (by an insured cause of loss) during the extension period is covered. Any avoidable loss of production will be charged as an appraisal against the guarantee in your policy."

And, if you're worried that you'll continue to be delayed, make sure you're specifically documenting your field conditions. Any potential prevented-harvest insurance payments down the road will depend on it.

"It is important that you document conditions for your acreage and the actions you take in order to receive an accurate claim payment if one is due. You must harvest your crop during the extension period if a window of opportunity arises. If you do not, the crop insurance company will appraise the acreage at that time and finalize the claim based on that appraisal. Damage occurring after the window of opportunity to harvest is uninsurable," Pugh says. "If there is significant snow cover, if the crop is under water, or if extreme wet conditions exist, the crop insurance company should not (and is not required to), perform final inspections when conditions make it impossible to obtain appraisals accurately."

But, keep in mind that, if you qualify, it doesn't mean the December 10 deadline is automatically lifted. You'll need to document your conditions specifically in order to take advantage of RMA's provision, says Stu Ellis of the University of Illinois Extension.

"RMA is careful to say that just because you are given additional time to harvest does not mean the coverage period is being extended past December 10. It says you are being given extra time to harvest to determine the extent of any loss," Ellis says. "If you lose some of the corn due to lodging or beans due to shatter loss, that would be covered, but if any of your crop is lost because of something you could have avoided, then that would be deducted from your indemnity check."

The weather seems to be breaking from this fall's wet, cool pattern this week in much of the nation's corn- and soybean-growing areas. Many farmers are going to be able to get closer to the finish line for the 2009 fall harvest this week.

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