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Communication: The Key To Navigating Crop Insurance

Farming on the plains of the upper Midwest has its challenges. With Mother Nature, you never quite know what you are going to get.

Each year 4,000 acres in Ransom and Sargent counties in Southeastern North Dakota.

David Rasmussen raises spring wheat, corn and soybeans on around 4,000 acres in southeastern North Dakota. But the last two growing seasons have been unforgiving for Rasmussen.

Large early-season snowstorms in October combined with spring rains and cold conditions have placed farmers in this part of the country in a difficult spot. By Rasmussen’s own estimate, he was able to successfully plant only about two-thirds of his normal crop.

And Rasmussen is certainly not alone. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly 20 million acres were prevented from being planted nationwide in 2019, alone. That total more than doubles the previous mark set back in 2011.

ND Prevent Plant (PP) Acres for 2020 totaled 3,205,306. Ransom and Sargent Counties alone had 661,584 prevented planting acres.

North Dakota farmers were unable to plant over 855,000 acres that year. In neighboring Minnesota and South Dakota, those totals reached over 1.1 million acres and nearly 4 million acres, respectively.

In a market environment plagued with lower commodity prices and ongoing trade issues with foreign nations, struggles with weather only add to the stress placed on the backs of farmers and ranchers. Luckily for Rasmussen, he had a solid crop insurance plan in place. Working together with his insurance specialist and loan officer at AgCountry Farm Credit Services, Rasmussen was able to utilize the Prevented Plant option within his policy. “We knew going in last spring that we were not going to get everything planted,” said Rasmussen. “It was pretty easy talking to AgCountry to help me fully understand the prevent plant rules and be assured in my planting intentions.”

Because of these decisions, and the knowledge of the team he works with, Rasmussen says crop insurance has helped his farming operation weather the storm of the last few seasons.

“Everybody on the AgCountry team was aware of what was going on and how we were approaching it. They knew what to expect. They are so good at understanding the payments and keeping that stuff up-to-date.”

Sheri Rostock works as a senior insurance specialist at AgCountry in Lisbon, ND. She says that crop insurance is one of the best tools available to farmers and ranchers to hedge against poor weather conditions.

“The most recent couple of years really highlight the difference crop insurance can make for a farm’s financial success,” says Rostock. “Without those extra funds, money would be awfully tight for some operations.”

According to the North Dakota FSA Office, Ransom County had 31 percent prevented planting acres and Sargent County had 37 percent prevented planting acres in 2020.

There are a lot of options available to farmers and ranchers when it comes to crop insurance. However, Rostock cautions that it is important to work with a company that understands agriculture. “Each farm is unique,” says Rostock. “Given the complexity of modern agriculture, it is nice to work with people that are on the same page as you.”

Like farming, navigating through the crop insurance program can also be difficult for those who do not regularly work with it. Coverage and payments can vary greatly depending on where someone farms and what they farm. For these reasons, ongoing communication is crucial between the farmer and insurance specialist.

“To avoid any unwanted surprises, it is best that farmers be upfront and provide their insurance specialist with as much information as they can once it becomes available,” says Rostock.

And in the case of Rasmussen, Rostock says that through communication and evaluation, they were able to get him the best possible coverage to help the bottom line of his farming operation.

After the last two years for Rasmussen, this is certainly welcomed. “Being able to get paid in a timely fashion has really helped keep the cash flow and the operation going. Crop insurance has been a lifesaver and I thank AgCountry for helping me through it.”

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