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Protect yourself when lending farm machinery

In July of 2020, Jolene Palmer lost her husband Mike to lymphoma. In the six weeks before his passing, the couple made plans for how the crops on their Minnesota farm would be harvested that fall. Using their own equipment and working with a farmer who had helped them in previous years, fields would be harvested the way they always had.

“People in the community kept calling saying they wanted to help,” Palmer recalls. “And the farmer who was helping me said, ‘Just let them help.’ It was the avenue we went down, because they said we could get harvest done in two days instead of two weeks.”

As people called, she made a list of names and the equipment they offered to bring. Some people didn’t have equipment but offered to drive if they could. She sat down with three farmers to coordinate which fields the equipment would go to and who would operate it. The first morning of harvest, Palmer met with volunteers, some of whom she had never met before, and handed out assignments.

“It was an incredible day. We had 12 combines, 12 grain carts, 28 semis, and 58 people to harvest 1,100 acres of corn,” Palmer says. “One of the things we talked about that morning was that while we had a job to do, everyone should take their time, have fun doing it, and do it safely.”

It’s no secret farmers like to help one another in times of need. When lending equipment or helping a neighbor, it’s also critical farmers take a moment to consider safety as well as liability in case something does go wrong.

Ensure safe lending

If you lend or use equipment that doesn’t belong to you, there are three important questions you should ask.

  1. Does my policy cover equipment rented or lent to a neighbor? 
  2. Does the person borrowing the equipment have experience with its use and safety features, and understand the risks? 
  3. Will the person borrowing the equipment be the one operating it?

“Before agreeing to lend equipment, the best route to go down is to speak to your agent about coverage,” says Emily Berrier, farm underwriting and sales leader with Nationwide Insurance. “Think through the implications of how that piece of equipment is going to be used and the safety-related questions you should be asking.”

Berrier says that when it comes to determining who is liable for a piece of borrowed or lent equipment — the owner of the equipment or the borrower — the waters get murky. It’s also one of the reasons why it is important to not only think things through before lending, but to also have comprehensive coverage.

Because all farms and years are different, working with a farm agent is the best way to make sure your specific operation is appropriately covered, especially for those times when you may offer a helping hand.

“Whether it’s a large operation or a small operation, each one is unique,” says Berrier. “Our whole goal at Nationwide is making sure we’re protecting the farmer. The best way to do that is to work with an agent that has expertise.” 

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