Federal crop insurance is an important risk management tool for farmers throughout the United States. This is not likely to change, and, in the near future, an expanded federal crop insurance program may replace many of the traditional “safety net” farm programs.

In fact, crop insurance has become an integral part of the modern farm operation for producers throughout the United States. As such, federal crop insurance appears to have emerged as a mainstay of farm risk management and future farm legislation.

Once a loss occurs, farmers may have difficulty navigating the claims process, especially given some of the complexities associated with crop insurance policies. The basic provisions included in the Common Crop Insurance Policy place significant responsibility on farmers who suffer covered losses.

The information below is provided to assist producers in understanding basic components of the claims process once a loss occurs.

Insured crop loss

Under the Common Crop Insurance Policy, the insured producer has the responsibility to notify a crop insurance agent of an insured crop loss and initiate the adjustment process. Upon the discovery of crop damage or loss, the producer should immediately contact his or her crop insurance agent.

After contacting the agent, producers should follow up with a letter, including the time and date of the conversation with the agent, and request that an adjuster immediately inspect the crop. A written notification may not be required by the policy, but disputes over the time of notification have arisen where evidence of the initial claim was not available. A written notification will provide a record of a producer’s claim and significantly reduce the possibility of future disagreement.

Timely reporting of losses

An insured producer should be aware that there are time requirements for submitting a loss claim. These can vary depending on the policy, so it is important for insured producers to be familiar with the terms of their specific crop insurance policies.

Insured farmers must take care to submit crop insurance claims in a timely fashion and to provide supporting documentation relating to the cause and amount of crop losses. If a producer fails to report a potential claim within the appropriate time frame, the claim may be denied.

Generally, a farmer only has 72 hours after the discovery of damage to a crop in which to put the insurance provider on notice of a possible claim.

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For revenue coverage policies, notice of a claim must be provided no later than 45 days after the release of the harvest price.

Prevented planting claims, on the other hand, are required to be submitted within 72 hours of the final planting date.

Acreage reporting

Under the basic provisions included in the Common Crop Insurance Policy, proper acreage reporting is the responsibility of the farmer and not that of the crop insurance agent. Put simply, taking the time to submit an accurate and complete acreage report before losses occur is not only a requirement but also an action that helps to ensure an effective claims process for everyone involved, especially the producer.

The annual acreage report documents acreage planted, while also serving to establish the amount of insurance coverage that will be provided to a producer as well as the premium that the producer is charged.

Acreage reporting may seem simple, but an innocent error in calculating acreage can be costly, because a simple underreporting of acreage planted can result, for example, in a lower indemnity payment.