Autumn has arrived in Minnesota! That means the leaves are changing color and the weather is cooling off; however, for farmers, the season is just ramping up. Fall is arguably the busiest time of year on the farm between harvest season and preparing for the cold winter ahead. So, what can you do to ensure your property, assets, and employees are protected? Well, today we’re going to discuss everything you should consider when reviewing your insurance coverage—as well as how to be proactive in preventing incidents—so you’re properly covered for the harvest season and beyond.
Autumnal Insurance Review
Before harvest season is the perfect time to review your insurance policy and make sure you’re adequately covered. You’ll first want to check if all your farm equipment is listed on your policy. Then double-check that your equipment is not only valued correctly considering the rising costs of used equipment but that they each have the proper type of coverage (which we will discuss more below). You may also be in a position where you lease certain pieces of equipment during harvest season, meaning you’ll need to ensure they’re properly covered under your policy as well.
Beyond ensuring you have the right coverage, you’ll want to ask yourself questions: Am I hiring any seasonal help? Is the extra expense limit on my policy adequate? Are my liability limits and umbrella coverage adequate? Essentially, before the busy harvest season hits, taking some time to review your policy could save you a headache down the line if an incident occurs.
Broad Form vs. Special Form Coverage
So, what coverage do you really need for your farm equipment? While many farmers opt for broad form coverage, I always recommend special form coverage. Let me explain why.
Broad form coverage is a “named perils” policy where there’s no coverage for losses or damages to your property unless they’re among the specifically listed perils on the policy. This type of policy typically covers the bigger incidents you may face, such as collision or fire. For some farmers, this may be enough, but for many, it’s not.
Special form coverage is the most expansive form of insurance coverage, and instead of the covered perils being listed, the exclusions are listed. This means that unless the policy explicitly states that a peril isn’t included, it is included, and your potential loss is covered.
My favorite example of why special form coverage is so useful is the case of accidentally running a rock through your combine. Now, any farmer knows that pieces of broken rock can cause damage to chaffers, augers, housings, and conveyor chains, but many may not realize that a broad form policy wouldn’t cover this type of incident. In this case, having special form coverage would help you avoid the full cost of repairs and get your equipment back up and running more efficiently.
Beyond this example, there are many other reasons why special form coverage is so important for farmers. Here are some other examples of farm machinery losses that a special form policy would cover:
- · You drop a wrench in your silage blower.
- · You break an axle on a piece of equipment while pulling it out of the mud.
- · You pick up a large object in your snow blower while clearing the yard.
- · The pond’s ice gives way while you’re trying to clear a space for the kids to skate, and now your machinery is submerged.
- · The weight of ice, sleet, or snow falls and damages augers, elevators, or other machinery outside a building.
These are just a few examples of things that can and do go wrong on a farm. That’s why it’s critical to review your policy, select the proper coverage, and do everything possible to mitigate accidents before they happen.
Mitigating the Minnesota Winters
So, what else can you do to ensure that your property is safe beyond the harvest season? Well, if you’re a native Minnesotan, then you know how much snowfall we experience each season and how it can negatively affect your buildings and equipment.
One of the biggest things that farmers need to watch for is falling snow and snow buildup on roofs. If you notice that the snow is beginning to exceed the design load of your building or if your roof is showing signs of an impending collapse, you should plan to remove the snow immediately.
There are several ways you can go about this snow removal to ensure your employees stay safe and your equipment and buildings stay intact, including beginning the thawing process by adding a heater to the uninsulated building. However, if you must use an unvented heater, you will need to vacate any animals or humans as the carbon monoxide produced by the heater can be deadly. Also, be mindful that warming the snow to break it free increases the risk of falling snow and debris.
Beyond trying to warm the space, you can use a snow rake to attempt to remove the snow from the roof. Once again, ensure you’re completely clear of the fall zone when scraping the snow. If you use a ladder or if your workers are on the roof itself, be sure to secure the ladder or tie your workers off so they don’t fall.
Remember that you’ll generally want to remove snow from the most heavily loaded areas first and that leaving a layer of snow next to the roof’s surface is okay because it helps protect the surface from damage during snow removal. Finally, if you’re not comfortable removing the snow yourself, consider hiring experts with boom trucks or other specialized equipment to perform this task safely.
There are many moving parts when you run a farm, so be sure to protect yourself during harvest season and beyond by being mindful of your operation and having the correct insurance coverage in case of any incidents. Of course, no one wants to think about accidents happening to them, but the least you can do is be prepared if or when they occur. So, make sure to do an autumnal insurance review before each harvest season, consider switching from broad form to special form coverage, and be proactive to minimize incidents and keep your operations running smoothly.
Jeff Staloch is an agent at Nesbit Agencies and President of Staloch Farms LLC, a corn and soybean family farm based in Martin County, MN. For more information on farm or commercial insurance policies, contact your local Nesbit Insurance agent at (507) 625-5558 or Jeff directly at 507-236-3644 or firstname.lastname@example.org.