John Phipps: Why You Need to Study the Fine Print of Crop Insurance

Customer Support 06/29/19
Recent adjustments to crop insurance could make decisions this year even more difficult. John Phipps explains in Customer Support. ( Farm Journal )

A question I’ve been dreading from Jeffery Ruff in Franklin, MN.

“Can you explain the rules and regulations for crop insurance and prevent plant?  I've talked to my crop insurance agent, and it's almost as clear as mud!  There's lot of numbers, and a lot to remember.  And for those who think they totally understand crop insurance I'm sure a refresher course wouldn't hurt.”

Jeffery your mug is on the way, but no answer, I’m afraid. Not only am I completely unqualified to speak about the details of crop insurance, I doubt if we could find an expert who could tackle the topic even if we devoted the whole show. While Tyne does speak often about the program, notice she picks specific topics or recent changes – of which there have been several.

Crop insurance is designed to fit multiple crops in multiple places under multiple circumstances. This year its basic regulations have been tested by events nobody considered very likely. We are setting the wrong records for planting completion and crop development, for examples. As a result, the overseeing agency – The Risk Management Agency – RMA is flooded with requests for changes, exemptions and other adjustments (no pun intended). When you add in pressure from Congress, the administration, farm organizations, and farmers, crop insurance is a moving target to explain.

The flexibility and grower choices which are important parts of crop insurance make it complex under ordinary conditions. This year I believe your best choice is attending grower meetings held by the insurance industry, keeping up with sources like farmdocdaily and scheduling plenty of time with your agent.

One of the unintended aspects sincere efforts to modify rules will be the nagging suspicion some producers will have after making choices that there was a better deal available and you and your agent simply missed it. My only advice is to apply the same effort to learning the fine points and new developments as you have trying to get planted. New changes almost always try to hold harmless farmers who have already made the best decisions they can.

Besides, if you’re like many of us, you may have some time on your hands this summer, anyway.