Questions to ask crop insurance agents during derecho cleanup

Farm and Food

The derecho that stormed through central and eastern Iowa on Monday, Aug. 10, left many farmers reeling. Damage spans crop destruction, equipment and building damage, and prolonged power outages.

Most farmers who saw their corn and soybean fields snapped, flattened, defoliated, or otherwise harmed are looking at their options under federal crop insurance. The below advice is for farmers to consider.

  • Farmers must let their agents know of damage within 72 hours of discovering the damage, and follow up in writing within 15 days of damage. Under certain circumstances, the crop insurance agent may accept a delayed notification. Farmers who missed the 72 hour window should ask their agents about this to learn more.
  • Combines are not designed to harvest downed corn, and some farmers may be concerned that their insurance policy will require them to put extra wear and tear on their harvest equipment to prove their lower yields. However, for a field with high crop loss, one option an agent may offer is to appraise the field and then “release” it back to the farmer, which releases farmers from attempting to harvest later. Interested farmers should first ask their agents about this option before taking action. Depending on how a farmer chooses to deal with the downed crop, it may or may not count toward their indemnity payment.
  • Many farmers are facing a decision of how to handle downed crops now. Some farmers may wish to chop their downed corn for silage, but the window remaining to do so is short. These farmers should let their agents know they would like to chop their damaged corn during a certain timeframe, and farmers should first ask their agent about speeding up the appraisal process, and how it will impact their indemnity payment. 
  • If a farmer would like to get into a downed field to chop, clear, or plant during a short timeframe, they may wish to ask their agent about the option of leaving a “representative sample” portion of the field untouched and allow them to chop or clear the rest. The agent would later conduct what is called a “deferred appraisal.” Farmers interested in this option should first ask their agent whether it is possible in their situation before taking action.
  • While it is late in the season for this option, farmers considering planting a second crop into a damaged field should ask their agent to learn more about how to do that and still claim their indemnity.

USDA also offers additional helpful information about the crop insurance claims process that can be found here.

Other USDA programs that some farmers might find helpful are included in this list of resources, which consists of programs for loss of livestock, loss of orchards, and emergency loan programs. More resources for farmers and rural communities may become available in the coming weeks.