Practical Guidelines to File Crop Insurance Losses Due to the Derecho

Alejandro Plastina

Written by Alejandro Plastina, Extension Economist, plastina@iastate.edu

Printable PDF Version

Overview of the Crop Insurance Claim Process

Wind is a covered event in Multi-Peril Crop Insurance and farmers whose insured crop acres have been affected by the Derecho may be eligible for indemnity payments.

Affected farmers should file a Notice of Loss (NOL) with their crop insurance agent within 72 hours of the initial time of discovery of damage or loss and follow up in writing within 15 days. When filing a timely NOL is not feasible, a delayed NOL may be accepted.

The NOL allows the Approved Insurance Provider (AIP) to contact the policyholder and make a determination in a case-by-case basis whether an indemnity will be paid. That decision will depend both on field conditions and farmer’s decisions:

A. If the AIP determines that field conditions will prevent farmers from ever being able to mechanically harvest the crop, that production will be considered a full loss.

B. Otherwise, the farmer can choose to:
1. Settle the case based on appraised production; or
2. Take the crop to harvest.

If a farmer chooses to harvest the crop (even if they chose option 1 in the first place), the producer must accept the highest of harvested production or appraised production for claims purposes. Farmers who choose option 1 first and then decide to harvest the crop must file a revised claim.

Practical Guidance for Farmers

Iowa corn field damaged by the August 10, 2020 derecho, photo by Meaghan Anderson, ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomist
  1. Contact your crop insurance agent as soon as possible, and file a NOL.
  1. If you want an immediate release of the field for another use, you can request the use of Representative Sample Areas or RSAs by the AIP. These are areas of a field that the AIP authorizes to leave untouched for later appraisal when an accurate appraisal cannot be made at the present time. Appraisals from the RSAs of the unharvested crop acreage are later used to settle the claim.
  1. You can salvage any remaining crop for use as silage, but your indemnity payment might be affected depending on how the crop is insured:
    a. For corn insured for Grain, once the AIP releases the field for another use, you can harvest for silage without penalty.
    b. For corn insured for Silage, if you agree to settle in appraised production, but you still attempt to harvest for silage, you must accept the higher of the appraised or the harvested production for claim purposes.
  1. You can hay or graze a second crop without penalty if the ground has been released for another use by the AIP, it is not practical to replant the insured crop, and the second crop will not be insured. This might be of interest to farmers who use cover crops.
  1. The only case in which you are required to physically destroy your crop production is when grain production is mature and no local buyers are willing to purchase it (typically due to molds and toxins in the mature grain), and it is not economical to ship it to other buyers. This is the case of a crop with Zero Market Value (ZMV), and destruction should take place whether the grain has been harvested or is still in the field.
  1. A Claims Advisory from the Risk Management Agency on August 21, 2020 indicated that the damaged crop in the released field for another use is not required to be harvested (even for RSAs appraisals).
  1. If you or someone you know are in need of assistance with stress and disaster management, call or visit online the Iowa Concern Hotline. Trained staff will assist you 24/7 and free of charge when you dial 1-800-447-1985 or go on-line.

Crop Insurance and Farm Finances

An estimated 87% of corn and 90% of soybean acres planted in 2020 are protected by crop insurance purchased by farmers in the spring. Crop insurance is an effective risk management tool, but is not designed to make farmers whole in the event of loss or damage to their crops. Just like with auto insurance, all policies have a deductible.

About 95% of those insured acres are under the Revenue Protection policy. The most comprehensive revenue protection policy has a 15% deductible that can easily amount to more than $100 per acre for corn and $55 per acre for soybean.

For a farmer planting 400 acres of corn and 200 acres of soybean affected by the storm, it means about $55,000 dollars in deductible that will not be available to pay for groceries, fuel, medical bills, principal and interest from existing loans, or inputs for the 2021 season. In many cases, since profit margins are currently so thin, even an 85% coverage level will not suffice to cover all production costs, particularly if the land is cash rented.

Finally, unless the AIP releases all acres in a unit, indemnity payments from crop insurance will not arrive until all crops are harvested and production records are submitted, late in the year. This will put additional strain on the working capital of Iowa farms, 28% of which started the season with vulnerable liquidity levels.

Additional Information

Disclaimer

The information provided is for reference purposes only and does not change the terms of the crop insurance policy. Talk to your crop insurance agent about specific questions related to your crop insurance coverage.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM)AgDM Twitter

An agricultural economics and business website.

Crop insurance coverage-frequently asked questions

Iowa map with images of farm management field specialists and their areas
ISU Extension and Outreach Farm Management Specialists provide expertise regarding crop insurance and adverse events.

Losses due to adverse weather conditions such as hail, frost, freeze, wind, drought, and excess moisture are insurable losses under multiple peril crop insurance.

In 2020, some Iowa farmers, especially in Western Iowa, are suffering the extremes of drought. Losses due to drought are an insurable loss under multiple peril crop insurance. Due to drought conditions, crop insurance claims are expected to be large for losses resulting from both corn and soybean yield declines in addition to a drop in the harvest prices used to calculate indemnity payments.

Another dynamic added to the mix is yield loss due to chemical drift, which is not a covered loss under multiple peril crop insurance.

Question: How many of Iowa’s corn and soybean acres are covered by crop insurance?

Iowa farmers planted 23.4 million acres of corn and soybeans in 2020. Approximately 90% of those acres have been insured using Revenue Protection (RP) multiple peril crop insurance. These insurance policies can guarantee various levels of a percentage of the farm’s average yield times the higher of the projected price (average futures price in the month of February) or the harvest price (average futures price during the month of October), using the November 2020 futures contract for soybeans and the December 2020 futures contract for corn. Most farm operators carry a guarantee of their APH from 65% to 85% level of coverage. The projected prices (futures average prices in February 2020) were $3.88/bu for corn and $9.17/bu for soybeans, respectively.

Hail damaged Iowa field
Hail damaged field, photo courtesy of Duane Johnson

Question: What should an insured farmer do once a crop loss is recognized?

  1. Notify the insurance agent within 72 hours of the discovery of damage, but not later than 15 days after the end of the insurance period. A notice of loss can be made by phone, in writing or in person. Although drought loss is not immediate, farmers should contact their agent as soon as they feel a loss is present.
  2. Continue to care for the crop using good farming practices and protect it from further damage, if possible.
  3. Get permission from the insurance company, also referred to as your Approved Insurance Provider (AIP), before destroying or putting any crop to an alternative use.

Question: Who will appraise the crops and assess the loss?

The crop insurance company will assign a crop insurance adjuster to appraise the crop and assess the loss. The insured farmer must maintain the crop until the appraisal is complete. If the company cannot make an accurate appraisal, or the farmer disagrees with the appraisal, the company can have the farmer leave representative sample areas.
These representative sample areas of the crop are to be maintained – including normal spraying if economically justified – until the company conducts a final inspection. Failure to maintain the representative sample areas could result in a determination that the cause of loss is not covered. Therefore, no claims payment to the producer.

Once appraised the crop can be released by the company to be:

  1. Destroyed – through tillage, shredding, or chemical means; or
  2. Used as silage or feed.

Question: Once released, may I harvest my corn as silage for feed?

Check with your crop insurance company. In a county where corn can be insured as grain only, the corn will be released, or harvested as silage or sold as feed. Any grain will be counted as production for your claim. In a county where corn can be insured as silage, the harvested silage will be counted as production.

Question: What is the difference among insurance units?

Many farmers have chosen to insure their crops using enterprise units in order to pay less expensive insurance premiums. Under enterprise units, losses are calculated by crop by county. Therefore all the corn planted by a farmer in a given county would be added together to determine a loss. If a farmer has chosen optional units, then losses are calculated by crop by field unit. Premiums are typically higher if choosing optional units but a good yield on one field does not cancel out the loss on another field.

Question: When will farmers be receiving indemnity payments for their crop insurance losses?

Adjusters will be busy with the increase in losses in areas that have been impacted. As soon as you are finished harvesting notify your insurance agent and an adjuster will be assigned to you. Insurance companies cannot defer payments to the next tax year, but claims adjusted late in the year may not be paid out until the following year.

Question: What is the maximum price that the harvest time indemnity price (average October futures price) can reach?

The maximum harvest indemnity price values for 2020 are twice of the projected price; or $7.76/bushel for corn and $18.34/bushel for soybeans, respectively.

Question: Can indemnity payments be deferred for income tax purposes until 2021?

A taxpayer using the cash method of accounting claims the income in the year they receive the payment. The insurance company will send the insured a 1099 showing the amount and tax year to report the income.

A farmer, if they are using the cash method of accounting for reporting taxes, can elect to defer crop insurance payments if the loss is due to yield loss and they normally sell more than 50% of their crop the year following harvest. They cannot defer any loss that is due to price loss. Farmers that are using the accrual method of accounting for reporting taxes cannot defer crop insurance payments.

Question: Will I be asked to provide proof of my bushels this year for crop insurance verification?

All multiple peril crop insurance users are subject to production verification on a random basis. If a claim that exceeds $200,000 is filed for an individual crop and policy, verification of production is automatically required by regulation. This also requires a 3-year audit.

Additional Resources

FAQ from USDA RMA regarding the August 10, 2020 Derecho

AgDM Crop Insurance Publications

ISU Extension and Outreach Crops Team
Storm Damage Resources
Drought Resources

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM)AgDM Twitter

An agricultural economics and business website.

Plan how best to work with your local FSA office

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, sdjohns@iastate.edu

Steve Johnson, headshot

The ongoing COVID-19 situation has changed the way your local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office is conducting business with producers this spring. Local FSA offices are currently using alternative methods to provide service and ensure compliance with FSA provisions. Appointments can be made by phone, mail, or e-mail – rather than face-to-face interactions. Once producers have completed planting their 2020 spring crops, they should contact the local FSA office to obtain their certification maps to complete the annual acreage certification process.

The following is a 4-step process provided by a county FSA office in Iowa to their producers for completing their 2020 acreage report:

  1. Your local FSA office can provide farm/tract maps upon your request. They can provide them through the mail or e-mail. Once received, write in a legible pen what crop is planted in each field, including hay ground, grassed waterways, terraces, CRP, etc. and the approximate acreage amounts in those areas. 
  2. Next enter the planting date for each field below the crop type.
  3. If the producer shares the crop with another producer(s); list each individual/entity and their respective share of the crop. The total of listed shares must equal 100%.
  4. If the producer is unable to legibly write the crop, planting date, acres and producer shares (if necessary); then provide a sheet of paper along with the map that lists the field number, the crop, date planted, acres and shares.

Once you have all the acreage on your tract maps accounted for, contact your local FSA office to schedule a phone appointment to go through your maps. This can be handled in one of two ways:

Option 1) You may return your completed maps to the county office for loading into the crop certification software via mail, e-mail, fax, or the drop box located outside your local FSA office.

Option 2) FSA staff can contact you and go through your maps over the phone together. This includes FSA updating your crops/dates/acres/shares and entering them into the crop certification software and allowing you to provide any other pertinent information.

In either case, you will subsequently receive the printed acreage form for your signature in the mail or via e-mail. Indicate to FSA your preference when contacted. Then return your signed FSA Form 578 via mail, e-mail, fax or drop box located at your local FSA office. The deadline is July 15, 2020 for filing this form .

Producers should plan to keep good records at planting each year and file a timely FSA Form 578. Annually these records include the date, the crop and acres planted, and producer shares along with the reference to the farm number. Do not forget you will need to include hay ground, grassed waterways, terraces, CRP, etc.

Filing an accurate and timely acreage report for all crops and land is important. This report is an essential part of determining your eligibility for critical programs, including crop insurance, price support, disaster relief and conservation programs.

Remember, both the FSA office and your crop insurance agent will need accurate planting information and your signature when you complete the acreage certification FSA Form 578. The planted acres on this form are verification for your crop insurance agent in determining your 2020 crop insurance coverage, and thus your final premium to be paid this fall.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM)AgDM Twitter

An agricultural economics and business website.

Considerations for Adding SCO Crop Insurance

Steve Johnson, headshot

Contributed by Steve Johnson, Extension Farm Management Field Specialist, sdjohns@iastate.edu

The decision to purchase Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) crop insurance in 2020 must be confirmed with your crop insurance agent on or before March 15, 2020. This deadline for making crop insurance changes for spring planted crops now becomes the same deadline for electing and enrolling annually in the ARC/PLC program at your local USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) office.

The SCO product is available to producers who elect and will enroll in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) commodity crop program on a farm in 2020. With the ongoing election/enrollment in the ARC/PLC program this winter, the expectation of many experts is that most farmers will choose the PLC program on their corn base acres. However, the ARC-County (ARC-CO) program will be the choice for most soybean base acres.

The SCO band of coverage is based on the county revenue given that the underlying COMBO crop insurance product, likely Revenue Protection (RP) is also purchased. SCO provides a protection in a band at an 86% maximum level down to the coverage level selected for RP. An example would be a farmer who selects a 75% coverage level for RP and adds the SCO product. Thus, SCO could provide county-based revenue coverage from the 86% to the 75% level, or 11% total SCO.

To trigger an indemnity claim the actual county revenue must fall below 86% of the county revenue guarantee before SCO would trigger a payment. As a result, the RP-SCO combination provides mixed coverage: Farm-level coverage is provided from the RP product downward (65%, 70%, 75%, 80% and 85% levels) while county-level coverage provides between 86% and the coverage level of the RP product.

The primary disadvantage of the RP-SCO combination is that the county-level coverage may not match losses on a farm. Sometimes a farm may have a large revenue loss while SCO will not trigger a payment. It’s also possible that the farm does not have a loss while the county-based SCO product triggers a payment. Note that if an SCO indemnity payment is made, the farmer will not receive it until the June following harvest when USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) releases the final county yields.

The primary advantage of purchasing an RP-SCO combination product is a lower overall farmer-paid premium. However, consider if your county yields are typically less variable than your farm’s yields. This could result in fewer indemnity claims for a county-based product than for that farm-level product at the same coverage level. SCO has a government subsidy rate of 65% which is higher than the rate for RP at the 85% coverage levels using enterprise units. This 65% subsidy rate is higher than all subsidy levels for basic and optional units when the coverage level is above 50%.

Farmers who typically purchase RP at high coverage levels (80% and 85%) will likely find a slightly lower farmer-paid premium by adding SCO. But consider a couple cautions before you add the SCO product in 2020. First, make sure your farm’s yields are reflecting your county’s yields. Second, if an SCO indemnity payment is triggered, don’t expect to receive those proceeds until the June following harvest.

Be aware of the time constraints that both FSA county office staff and crop insurance agents will have as this March 15, 2020 deadline approaches. Prepare now to elect and enroll in the ARC/PLC programs for your farms and perhaps update your PLC yields that will be effective for the 2020 crop. Then discuss with your agent the crop insurance changes you’ll be making in 2020 including the possibility of adding the SCO product if you will be enrolling in the PLC program for that crop.

Ag Decision Maker (AgDM)AgDM Twitter

An agricultural economics and business website.

Delayed and Prevented Planting Resources for 2019 from ISU Extension and Outreach

On May 24, 2019, ISU Extension and Outreach field agronomists, Rebecca Vittetoe and Virgil Schmitt, along with farm management specialist, Ryan Drollette recorded a webinar on delayed and prevented planting. The following are links to resources for 2019 delayed and prevented planting decisions.

Delayed and Prevented Planting Webinar and Resources

Agronomic ResourcesFlooded, unplanted field

Cover Crops

Farm Management, Crop Insurance

More Information

Ag Decision Maker text image

Archives