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Avoid common crop insurance mistakes

Jeff Caldwell 07/31/2012 @ 9:37am Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

Crop insurance is a popular topic among farmers at this point in this summer of drought when many will be facing considerable crop yield losses, with some likely to ultimately harvest nothing from the fields hit most severely by the drought.

If you're staring down the barrel of a year where crop insurance will replace most or all of your crop income, make sure you don't make one of a few common mistakes that can make you ineligible to collect an indemnity payment.

"There is no doubt that crop insurance can be complicated to understand all the nuances surrounding making a claim," says Ohio State University Extension Educator Chris Bruynis. "There are common mistakes that producers make that can cost them money."

The first is in the harvest method. It's important to clear any harvest activity, like chopping corn for silage before an adjuster has had a chance to evaluate the field, before you even turn a wheel. In some cases, this can void any insurance coverage you may have.

"If there is no actual harvested grain for the adjuster to measure, the crop must be field appraised for grain content before harvested," Bruynis says. "The adjuster cannot appraise the grain content of harvested corn silage and the production to count will be assessed at the full guarantee. No indemnity will be paid."

Even if you're not going to try to glean some kind of value from your parched fields, don't do anything to the crop to destroy it before getting approval from your insurance carrier, according to Bruynis. "Production for a crop that is destroyed before the claim adjustment is made will be assessed at the full production guarantee and no indemnity will be paid," he says.

One area where it's a little less clear-cut is with reporting your crop losses. The rule of thumb for contacting your agent is within 72 hours after a crop loss. For a hailstorm or flood, that's a pretty easy window to define. But, Bruynis says, more long-term, linear issues like a drought can make it a lot tougher decision. So, it makes it better to act sooner rather than later.

"With the slow decline created by the summer drought, this is a bit more difficult. Even corn and beans that have had some drought and heat stress that still look decent will probably have a yield loss," he says. "Contacting the insurance agent now, if you have not already done so, is advised if you suspect any yield loss this year."

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