Buying Hail Insurance is a Separate Decision

You can elect to buy fed crop plus hail coverage.

Published on: Feb 29, 2008

The following story is not an old wive's tale- it happened. Many years ago the same wheat field was hit three times, at three different stages by hail. This was long before the days of federally-backed crop insurance. But the farmer had taken out a Hail and Fire policy with an independent provider. Each time the crop was damaged, the inspector checked the field. The farmer was paid three times for varying levels of damage on that one wheat crop caused by hail. He was still able to harvest the crop.

Of course, that's not how federally crop insured coverage works. What counts is final production per unit of a crop signed up at the end of the year. Then payments are based on percentage loss and/or revenue lost, depending on what type of coverage the farmer elected to take. But there are still independent companies offering hail, wind and fire crop coverage today that's totally separate from the federally-subsidized coverage. Some crop insurance industry specialists believe they're worth considering.

"If you have federal crop insurance but not any supplemental hail and wind coverage and a tornado hits we're going to treat it the same way we would any other claim," says Jim Rink, director of farm and crop insurance for Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance in Indiana. "Once the crop is harvested that he can salvage after the damage, we'll sit down with him and either look at weight tickets if he hauled the grain directly to town, or else estimate how much grain is in his bins. We will determine the yield and compare that to guaranteed bushels he signed up and paid for in his premium coverage."

"You certainly can take out hail insurance on top of the federal crop options you select and pay premiums for," adds Jack Wagster of Top Land Risk management, Seymour. "If you have hail damage in corn, soybean or wheat, hail adjustors working for the independent company will visit soon after the event. If they determine damage, they may offer a settlement. That has nothing to do with what you might or might not collect at the end of the season from federal crop policies, based on how well the entire unit performs yield-wise."

Wagster confirms that while the case of the farmer that was hit by hail three times on the same field years ago was unusual, if hail hits say twice, and you've already received payment, then you're eligible to receive payment again for additional damage caused by the second hit. But it's important to stress that this is only true of hail, wind and fire policies offered by independent companies at an additional premium. This type of coverage is not available through federally backed programs.

If hail or wind destroys a crop, you can collect through the federally-backed insurance, but only to the extent yields are impacted at the end of the season. If a crop takes a minor yield hit early but final yield is still above the threshold specified in you policy, then you likely won't collect through federally-backed crop insurance programs.