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Q&A With Michael Williams

Insurance expert addresses questions about technology coverage.

In the ever-changing world of technology, it can be difficult to know what should and shouldn’t be covered under your insurance plan. Michael Williams, a senior product director for Travelers Agribusiness, shares his insights.

SF: As farmers adopt new technologies, how do their risks and exposures change?

MW: The answer to this question will vary greatly depending on the specific type of equipment or technology they’re considering. For example, if a new farm-management software system is being used for operations and it is reliant on internet connectivity and electricity, farmers should have a plan to maintain operations if the connection is broken or power is lost. If a new piece of equipment is purchased, it is important to consider its storage requirements and the safety risks it may create for employees, customers, or visitors.

No matter how producers upgrade their operations, it is important for them to inform their independent insurance agent to determine if new or additional coverage is recommended.

SF: How do farmers know which technologies are worth insuring?

MW: Precision agriculture equipment may be covered under existing insurance products. Speaking with an independent insurance agent whenever new equipment or technology is added allows the agent the opportunity to review the current insurance policy to determine if any changes are appropriate.

SF: Is there a recommended dollar threshold for new technologies?

MW: It all comes down to the level of risk a farmer is willing to take. Typically, the higher the property’s value, the more likely it is to be insured.

SF: What are the risks associated with using drones, and what should a business do to protect itself?

MW: Drones can present several risks.

  • The drone could hit a crop duster, windmill, silo, or other tall structure.
  • The drone could fly too close to or into a neighbor’s property or hit something on a neighboring farm or ranch.
  • The drone could crash near combustible materials and start a fire.

Farmers who use drones should make sure they have the appropriate property and liability coverage. If they use a contractor to operate a drone, the contractor needs to have the right insurance. Both parties will want to ensure that they follow FAA regulations on commercial drone use.

Producers should notify their independent insurance agent if they employ this system. The agent will determine the appropriate coverage to help recover losses if something goes wrong and the system doesn’t function properly.

SF: Are connected farms more vulnerable to harsh weather and natural disasters than conventional farms? How should farmers prepare for possible disruptions?

MW: Connected farm operations may be a little more vulnerable to harsh weather elements. Previously, the main worry was a power outage and how that could affect the business. Now, the concern is losing power or connectivity. Farmers should have reliable software vendors who can help restore the programming and protect their data during any emergencies.

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