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Managing Risk of Wine Grape Growers

If you’re a wine grape grower, you understand the importance of crop insurance. For 23 years, Vintage Crop Insurance Agency, Inc., headquartered in Modesto, Cal., has worked alongside wine grape growers throughout California and Oregon.

“Back in 1995 when I started my crop insurance career, I was fortunate enough to begin a relationship with the California Association of Winegrape Growers (CAWG),” says President of Vintage Crop Insurance Agency Robert Avina.

“Since then, I have continued my strong support for CAWG and have also developed lasting relationships with local wine grape associations throughout California. Our reputation has grown as the recognized leader in crop insurance and a household name in the wine grape community,” he says.

While Vintage Crop Insurance specializes in wine grapes, the company also insures other crops, such as almonds, olives, citrus, cherries, etc., and is growing into Arizona and Washington.

“Our foundation started and continues to grow with grapes,” Avina says. “We love what we do, and we appreciate the relationships we’ve built through hard work, perseverance and, of course, service.” 

Risk Management Tools

Vintage Crop works with growers of all sizes. Vice President of Operations Liz Vieira says, “We have growers whose whole farming operation may be five acres. We also have growers or wineries that have thousands of acres.”

Growers use federal multi-peril crop insurance, which is a production-based policy, with the ability to insure up to 85 percent of their crop. “Each year we work with growers to determine the percentage needed to protect their crop and their livelihood,” Avina says.

“Most of our policyholders also work with lenders who require specific amounts of insurance to guarantee their crop, so their loans are also protected,” says Avina.

Grape Cluster Freeze Policy

According to Vieira, the most prevalent causes of loss in California are frost, freeze or rain, and high heat.

That’s where the RCIS additional coverage product comes in. Avina says, “We provide a private grape cluster freeze policy in California from RCIS. The grape cluster freeze policy provides limits up to $3,500 per acre. The maximum limits are dependent on the county.”

“It’s an added value protection plan that growers take advantage of because frost damage is highly probable during bud break,” he says. “It provides an extra layer of protection that growers appreciate.”

Vieira explains how the additional coverage works. “If a grower experiences frost damage, at their request, we open a claim. We’ll open a claim on both policies—the grape cluster freeze as well as the multi-peril,” she says.

“The grape cluster freeze pays out immediately, so if the frost is in April, the grower will get a check cut during that time of the year. With the multi-peril coverage, once growers complete harvest in late summer or early fall, they’ll go ahead and finalize the multi-peril claim if they have one.” 

Expertise Adds Value

As with all crop insurance, selecting coverage can be a complex task with many variables. Experienced and knowledgeable crop insurance agents are a valuable resource for growers.

“We make sure we understand the growers’ farming operations and goals, so that we can provide them with a proper risk assessment,” says Avina. 

Growers select different levels of coverage by grape variety. Within a single operation, there may be a range of 15 different varieties.

“We separate out each varietal—and growers may receive different contract prices for each one,” he says. “Each variety differs in value by region. For instance, in the Central Valley, the grape varietal price is typically lower than the varietal price in the Napa or Sonoma Valley.”

Building Relationships

Federal crop insurance is available from selected providers and agents. Vintage Crop has succeeded in differentiating themselves by building strong relationships with their clients through exceptional service.

“We always pride ourselves on providing quick, knowledgeable and comprehensive customer service to all our clients, regardless of size,” Avina says. “Our clients understand we’re not just an insurance agent. We’re actually part of the wine grape community, and that’s important to them.”

“I know it is cliché to say service is the difference,” Vieira says, “but it truly is in our industry. We have growers that we have insured since 1995. We have earned the trust of our clients because we always strive to give them the best possible service.”

Avina mentions that growers must initiate claims filing, but Vintage Crop is proactive in working with their policyholders.

“If there is a weather event, we’ll reach out to our growers via email or make a call and ask them if they were affected,” Avina says. “For example, there was a hail storm during harvest. We called our growers in the area affected and said, ‘Are you guys okay? Are the grapes okay?’ They really appreciate that.”

“We always make the effort to see our growers several times a year, because it’s important to us,” Avina says. “We’re about making sure that their livelihood is taken care of and future generations are protected. This is all about family. It’s very important to them that we’re always proactive and always in front of them.”

Working with RCIS

Avina has worked with RCIS since he began his career in crop insurance. “They were the first Approved Insurance Provider (AIP) I worked with,” he says. “They saw value in not just my agency but in me personally. That meant a lot to me and is something that I will never forget.”

“Also, RCIS is a company that has a like-minded business philosophy,” Avina says. “Knowing that I can count on them, especially during critical times, is essential to having a successful relationship.”

Vintage Crop depends on RCIS to deliver the kind of responsive, personal service that their clients expect. And when there’s a claim, Vintage Crop steps back and trusts RCIS to communicate with their clients.

“Steve Borba, who heads claims, is an exceptional person,” says Avina. “He understands our communication, our philosophy and that we need to make sure everything is on point.” Vieira points out that RCIS adjusters have worked with Vintage Crop clients for years. They know what growers expect and what Vintage Crop expects, as well.

“As far as the servicing side here in California, Malia Turner and Karen Lozier are awesome, along with Dave Schmitt and others,” Avina says. “RCIS assists us through the good times and the bad and that’s why it works. We’re talking 23 years plus of strong relationships where we can trust them and know they’re going to be there when needed.”

He believes that the excellent support Vintage Crop receives from RCIS is partly due to the leadership of RCIS Head Mike Day, who sets the tone for the company.

“Honestly, the fact that I can call Mike Day directly is a big deal for me,” Avina says. “He understands what we want from RCIS and always makes sure we’re getting the services we need. He’ll call me from time to time just to see how things are going. That means a lot. He values our agency and the business we bring to the table.”

Passion for Agriculture

Both Avina and Vieira grew up in California’s Central Valley, and while their families didn’t farm, they were part of the larger agricultural community.

Avina’s father was a foreman for a fertilizer company. “Some of my fondest memories are going to work with my dad as a little kid and being able to go to the fields and ride on the tractor with him,” he says.

In his early 20s, Avina was given an opportunity in crop insurance and for him it turned out to be the best of both worlds. “I couldn’t believe I could do insurance and still be out in the fields with growers.”

Vieira’s experience was similar. “From age 12 and up I grew up in the country. I was involved in Future Farmers of America in high school and showed cattle,” she says.

She graduated in 1999 from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, with a bachelor of science in agricultural science.

“I fell in love with the people involved in ag and wanted to be a part of that community,” she says. “That’s why I went into an ag major and got into crop insurance right out of college. And I’ve been here ever since because I love it so much. Farmers are great people to work with. It’s just a great experience.”

 Avina sums it up. “We both enjoy being able to help family-owned businesses protect their farming interests for their families and future generations to come.”

To learn more, visit www.vintagecrop.com or www.rcis.com.

RCIC is an equal opportunity provider. Some products not available in all states or counties. RCIS is a registered trademark of Rural Community Insurance Company. 

Vintage Crop Insurance Agency, Inc. is not a subsidiary or affiliate of RCIC and use of their products and services are independent of, and not included within, RCIS’ products or services. RCIC expressly disclaims any and all damages and other costs that may arise related to the use of or reliance upon the products, services, representations or warranties made by or on behalf of Vintage Crop Insurance Agency, Inc.

© 2018 Rural Community Insurance Company. All rights reserved.

 

 

How to Maximize Risk Management with Private Coverage Products

Every business—farms and ranches included—faces challenges based on factors beyond our control.

Some of these challenges can be anticipated, such as hailstorms. Other challenges, like the devastating effects of excessive precipitation, straight-line winds and tornados, are completely unpredictable.

RCIS Regional Sales and Service Manager for the Eastern Corn Belt, Joe Beland, explains that private coverage products can help farmers manage risk stemming from all types of challenges.

“Private coverage products are designed to fill the gap between federally-available multi-peril coverage options and the actual risk involved with farming and ranching,” he says.

“They’re really designed to work with the federally-available policies and to provide better risk management.”

In areas where hail is common, for example, it’s critical that farmers have access to private coverage products to protect themselves against that specific peril, according to Beland.

Storms in the Midwest

Based in Iowa, Beland saw crops affected by storms this year.  

“We had some areas here in the Midwest that were devastated by a hail and wind storm, mid-summer this year,” he says.

“I would drive through those areas, and it was literally sickening to see the damage to the crops, which until that point had looked really good,” Beland says.

“I knew some of those fields were insured with the hail and wind policy with RCIS and some weren’t. And the differences in revenue hit me—folks that had hail, wind or revenue coverage versus those that didn’t—it’s going to make a substantial difference in their bottom line and ability to recover from the loss.”

Most Popular Private Coverage Products

According to Beland, the types of private coverage products farmers may want to consider vary by area.

“Hail is by far the most common private coverage product in terms of the number sold,” Beland says. “Wind coverage is something we’ve seen a huge expansion in over the last 10 years. It’s become a regular part of many risk management plans, especially in the Midwest.”

With private coverage products, farmers can insure on the basis of price or revenue, depending on the particular operation.

“In today’s world of unstable markets and unpredictable changes in price, revenue protection policies are very effective,” Beland says.

“I would urge growers to look at two RCIS products in particular. RPowerD™ and our Revenue Protection Plan (RPP) do a nice job of filling out risk management plans,” he says.

Crop Insurance Agents Help Customize Coverage

Every farming and ranching operation is unique. Variables include geography, weather, acreage, farming practices, financial structure and more.

“There are lots of options available to manage risk in agriculture,” says Beland. “One of the best steps a farmer can take is to reach out to a really knowledgeable crop insurance agent who can evaluate those options and help guide them through the process.”

Risk management is complex, Beland explains. “There’s a lot of variability on how the policies work. A good crop insurance agent can help explain what options are available, what the differences are and how they might work to address your specific risk management needs."

Beland stresses that it’s important to have a customized plan. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all situation,” he says. “What your neighbor does might not make sense for your operation, because you’re in a different position.”

Private coverage products can cover named perils, such as hail or wind, but also the unforeseen challenges. “Changes in price are hard to manage for some operations, and our revenue products help growers manage those risks,” he says.

Beland encourages farmers to look at the big financial picture of their operations and evaluate what risk management is worth. “What’s the value of that, at the end of the day? What’s your exposure, and how can I mitigate some of that exposure?” he says.

To learn more about private coverage products, contact your crop insurance agent or visit www.rcis.com.

RCIC is an equal opportunity provider. Some products not available in all states or counties. This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available to qualified customers provided solely for informational purposes. Coverage is underwritten in all states by Rural Community Insurance Company, Anoka, MN except in Montana where hail coverage is underwritten by Tri-County Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, Malta, MT. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, offer, advice, recommendation, or any other service with regard to any type of insurance product or services. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage, terms and conditions. The description of the policy provisions gives a broad overview of coverages and does not revise or amend the policy. Coverage may vary by state. Coverages and rates are subject to individual insured meeting our underwriting qualifications and product availability in applicable states. RCIS is a registered trademark of Rural Community Insurance Company. © 2018 Rural Community Insurance Company. All rights reserved.


 

New Dairy Revenue Protection Coverage Available
This fall, producers can sign up for the Dairy Revenue Protection (Dairy-RP) policy, with coverage starting during the first quarter of 2019.
The Dairy-RP coverage is designed to insure against unexpected declines in quarterly revenues from milk sales, relative to a guaranteed coverage level. 
“RCIS is pleased to offer much-needed Dairy-RP coverage, which was introduced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Risk Management Agency (RMA),” says Greg Eaton, National Sales & Service Manager of RCIS.
“The Dairy-RP product was developed with flexibility and simplicity in mind, to help producers customize the policy for their dairy operations,” he says. “Policyholders can cover 70 to 95 percent of their expected quarterly revenue in five percent increments.”
Expected revenue is based on futures prices for milk and dairy commodities and the amount of covered milk production elected by the dairy producer. Covered milk production is indexed to the state or region where the dairy producer is located.
Dairy-RP coverage offers two revenue pricing options:
• Class Pricing Option uses a combination of Class III and Class IV milk prices as a basis for determining coverage and indemnities.
• Component Pricing Option uses the component milk prices for butterfat, protein and other solids as a basis for determining coverage and indemnities. Policyholders may select the butterfat test percentage and protein test percentage (total must be 100 percent) to establish their insured milk price.
Producers can select either of these pricing options on separate quarterly coverage endorsements, providing they are not covering the same milk.
“We’re pleased to be able to help our dairy producers,” says Eaton. “Our nation’s crop insurance system helps keep food, including dairy products, safe, plentiful and affordable.”
To learn more about RCIS, see RCIS.com or ask your crop insurance agent.
RCIS is a registered trademark of Rural Community Insurance Company. © 2018 Rural Community Insurance Company. All rights reserved. RCIS is an equal opportunity provider.
 
RCIS Team Support Take a Vet Fishing Events
If you like hearing great stories, making personal connections and having an inspirational experience, you’d be a great Take a Vet Fishing volunteer.
That’s exactly what a handful of RCIS team members from the Anoka, Minn., office did on August 19 and September 16.
Take a Vet Fishing is a non-profit organization whose mission is to honor, comfort, and assist our PTS (Post Traumatic Stress) soldiers.
RCIS Claims Software Product Manager Andy Johnson, a veteran of the U.S. Navy himself, serves as the RCIS volunteer coordinator. Zurich, the parent company of RCIS, has a Veterans Engagement Team that supports community outreach and engagement efforts.
“The event is meant to be a day of giving back to veterans,” Andy says. “The Take a Vet Fishing organization gets sponsorships and works with professional fishing guides.”
According to Andy, the guides are paired up with veterans, who are given a rod and reel. The guides take the veterans fishing for three to four hours. When they return, there’s a ceremony, with a meal, presentations and prizes.
“It’s a very moving and inspirational day,” says Andy, “especially with some of the speeches and presentations.”
About 10 RCIS volunteers helped with set-up, directing traffic, checking people in, serving food, distributing prizes and cleanup at each event. They said participating in Take a Vet Fishing was a very rewarding and fulfilling experience.
The August 19 event was held at Mille Lacs, located about 100 miles north of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. It brought in about 60 veterans with a total of 200 meals served.
The event at Lake Minnetonka, which is within the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, drew more than 78 Veterans and their families for a total of 266 meals served, according to Andy.
Veterans of all age groups participate in the Take a Vet Fishing events. “Veterans from all the different eras are recognized,” Andy says. “At Mille Lacs we had a 94-year-old World War II veteran, and it goes from there to Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and all the way to today.”
Take a Vet Fishing is just one of many causes that RCIS employees engage with.
“The people here at RCIS really take their volunteering seriously. Whenever there’s an event, people always rally around the challenge of helping out,” says Andy.
 
RCIS Policyholders Can Make Online Payments
RCIS policyholders now have the option to make payments online, rather than mailing a check to RCIS for crop insurance payments. Payments will post sooner than if mailed to RCIS.
Policyholders have two options to make secured payments online:
  • RCIS.com website
  • RCIS.com for Producers website (portal) 
The new service is part of an ongoing effort by RCIS to deliver industry-leading tools to help its agents and policyholders. Online payments will help speed up the payment process, reduce manual processing and save postage.
 
From Every Corner: Growing Updates 
August 13, 2018 
As a leader in the U.S. crop insurance industry, RCIS provides insurance on more than 130 different crops on 52 million acres of America’s farmland. We monitor what’s happening in every corner—and we’re bringing that information to you.
Corn  
As of August 13, 2018, conditions of corn are 20 percent excellent, 50 percent good, 20 percent fair and just 7 percent poor or very poor.
States with the highest percentage of corn in excellent condition include Illinois at 32 percent, Wisconsin at 32 percent and Nebraska with 26 percent. States with the highest percentage of corn in poor to very poor condition include Missouri coming in at 45 percent, Texas at 36 percent and North Carolina at 30 percent.
Soybeans
In the states planting the most soybeans, 16 percent of soybean crops were rated excellent and 50 percent in good condition. Another 24 percent were in fair condition, with just 7 percent in poor condition.
States with the highest percentage of soybean acres in excellent condition are Wisconsin at 28 percent, Illinois at 27 percent and Nebraska at 22 percent. States with the highest percentages of soybeans in poor to very poor condition are Missouri with 37 percent and Kansas with 22 percent.
Early in 2018, the USDA’s Prospective Plantings report estimated that for the first time since 1983, soybean acres would exceed corn acres. With trade policy in flux, the effects of banking on soybeans remain to be seen.
Cotton
In the 15 states planting most of the previous year’s cotton acreage, 40 percent is in good to excellent condition, which is significantly lower than the 61 percent figure from 2017. Twenty-six percent of the cotton crop is in fair condition and 34 percent is in poor to very poor condition. 
Those states with the best cotton reports include California, with 100 percent of acres in good to excellent condition, Virginia at 91 percent and Arkansas at 84 percent in good to excellent condition. States with the highest percentage of poor to very poor cotton acres included Texas at 52 percent and Oklahoma at 46 percent.
Raisin Production Breakthrough
Growing Produce (June 2, 2018) reports that the USDA-ARS raisin grape breeding program has led to new varieties that ripen early. Several of the new raisin grapes ripen early to avoid the effects of poor weather conditions and dry on the vine for easier harvesting. Sunpreme, the newest variety, has traits that could reduce the need for manual labor (only about 28 percent of California raisins are picked mechanically, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture), which could be a game changer. Yet Sunpreme does have an undesirable trait—preharvest fruit drop. Research and evaluation continues. See the full article on growingproduce.com.  (You will leave RCIS by clicking this link)
Sorghum
Sorghum acre conditions are about 15 percentage points behind 2017 with 49 percent of the crop in good to excellent condition versus 64 percent the previous year.
States with the most sorghum in good to excellent condition include Nebraska at 89 percent, South Dakota at 76 percent and Illinois at 68 percent. States where the highest percentage of sorghum rates poor to very poor are Texas at 38 percent and Missouri at 25 percent.
Peanuts
As of August 14, 2018, 73 percent of peanut acres are in good to excellent condition, which is lower than this date in 2017, when 80 percent were in good to excellent condition.
South Carolina has the highest percentage of peanut acres in good to excellent condition, at 85 percent, followed by Florida at 78 percent. Of states with poor to very poor peanut acreage ratings, Georgia and Texas are both at 5 percent.
Sunflowers
As of June 14, in the four states that planted 87 percent of the 2017 sunflower acreage, planting was 83 percent complete, ahead of the average for that date, which was 76 percent.
Rice
As of August 14, rice conditions are down slightly over last year, with 69 percent in good to excellent condition versus 71 percent in 2017. States with the highest percentage of rice in good to excellent condition include California at 95 percent, Mississippi at 76 percent, and Louisiana at 73 percent.
Winter Wheat
Winter wheat acres are 94 percent done with harvest, with Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas completely done with harvest.
Spring Wheat
Spring wheat is much improved over last year, with 75 percent in good to excellent condition versus 31 percent in 2017. 
Oats
Oat harvest is more than half done, at 67 percent completed. Texas is completely done with oat harvest, with Nebraska close behind at 98 percent and Iowa following at 93 percent.
Barley
Well ahead of average, 81 percent of barley acres are in good to excellent condition, versus 49 percent in 2017.
What’s happening on your acres? Let us know on our Facebook page!
Share the progress of your crops with RCIS and your fellow farmers.  We’re all in this together as we work to keep American agriculture strong and vibrant.
Source: USDA Crop Progress 08.13.2018

 

The Farm Bill – What Happens Next?         

August 2, 2018

 
 

Farmers, ranchers and pretty much everyone associated with American agriculture knows the importance of the Farm Bill.

 

It sets a wide range of ag and food policy programs, including crop insurance, trade, rural development, credit, conservation, food and nutrition programs and much more.

 

The Farm Bill reauthorization has come a long way in 2018 and it’s heading to conference. What does this mean? We’ve put together this handy guide to better understand the process of Farm Bill development.

 

Over three years of work brought Congress to the current stage of conference negotiations, reflected in step 5 of the graphic. 

 

Key negotiators of the House and Senate will serve as “conferees” to develop the final Farm Bill product. In these negotiations, conferees and their staffs will work to resolve differences in the bills passed by the House and Senate in June.

 

Conference negotiations are informed by earlier steps of the Farm Bill process, such as recalling testimony of agricultural stakeholders received in step 1, considering discussions that led to initial legislative development in step 2, and reviewing changes to the bills brought forth in steps 3 and 4.

 

The Farm Bill principals – that is, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (who will officially chair the conference committee) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway and Ranking Member Collin Peterson – aim to finalize the new bill prior to expiration of the current Farm Bill September 30, 2018.

 

Finalizing the bill means completing the conference negotiations of step 5 and sending the “conference report,” or final product, to the House and Senate for an up or down vote in step 6. After approval of both House and Senate, the bill moves to step 7, which is consideration by the president for enactment – signing it into law – or veto, which would require further consideration in the House and Senate.

 

The final step is reflected in step 8 of the graphic – USDA implementation – a process that requires patience of agricultural stakeholders. In this phase, USDA will interpret the new Farm Bill and transform it from law into rules, regulations, and program application. 

 

Throughout the Farm Bill process, we at Zurich and RCIS have engaged in protecting crop insurance and private sector delivery. As a leading provider of crop insurance, we are proud to support this risk management tool that enables farmers and ranchers to secure lending each year to produce food, fiber, feed, and fuel for a growing world population.

 
 
 
Grassroots Petition Urges Congress to Protect Crop Insurance in the Farm Bill
May 17, 2018
 
418 Local, State and National Organizations Oppose Harmful Amendments to Crop Insurance
 

Washington, D.C.- This week 418 local, state and national organizations and individual companies signed on to a petition* urging Congress to do no harm to the crop insurance program in the farm bill. This includes broad support from across the country, from Hawaii to Maine, representing everyone from farmers to lenders to conservation organizations to agricultural input providers. This petition was sent to the House of Representatives, as H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, heads to the House floor for a vote this week.

 

Specifically, the petition asks Members of Congress to oppose harmful amendments to crop insurance including those that would reduce participation in crop insurance, make insurance more expensive for farmers during a time of economic downturn in agriculture, or harm private-sector delivery.

The crop insurance program is essential for farmers, ranchers, and rural economies. A letter echoing these key points was originally signed and sent to the House Agriculture Committee by a group of 65 national farm, lending, ag input, conservation, and crop insurance and reinsurance organizations to express their support for crop insurance in the farm bill. To read the final petition click here.* 
 
*You will leave RCIS.com when clicking this link
 
Events 
 
·        Independent Insurance Agents of South Dakota Annual Convention - September 23-25, 2018 | Deadwood, SD
·        Independent Insurance Agents of Nebraska Annual Convention - October 10-12, 2018 | LaVista, NE 
·        The Crop Insurance Professionals Association (CIPA) Fall Meeting - October 28-30, 2018 | Charleston, SC​
·        Montana Grain Growers Convention - November 27-29, 2018 | Great Falls, MT
·        Ag Leadership Foundation - World Ag Expo - February 12-14, 2019 | Tulare, CA

 

Why protecting crop insurance is so important to farmers and our nation’s food supply
 
With the Farm Bill reauthorization drawing near, RCIS business head Mike Day penned a crop insurance op-ed that was published in Morning Consult on February 14, 2018: 
 
An agricultural disaster will strike somewhere in the United States this year, but the location and scope are unknown. Thousands of farmers and ranchers annually prepare for the unknown by purchasing crop insurance in advance of planting season. But if critics of crop insurance have their way in the farm bill reauthorization — that is, to reduce risk management coverage and weaken private sector delivery — this important tool will fail to provide farmers the protection they need to produce food for consumers here at home and around the world.
 
Crop insurance is a cornerstone of farm policy and one of the most successful public-private partnerships in the country. In eight months, the current farm bill is set to expire. We must support the farmers and ranchers who provide the food on our families’ tables by protecting crop insurance and private sector delivery. To understand the importance of action in the next eight months, it’s worth going back a few decades.
 
In the late 1980s, about 100 million acres of farmland were insured, roughly one-third the level today. When natural catastrophes struck, farmers, their families and rural communities were devastated. Congress passed an ad hoc disaster assistance package in 1988 to help farmers cope. Assistance was extended again in 1989, 1992 and 1993 after more catastrophes threatened to ruin America’s farmers. But these packages weren’t solutions. They were after-the-fact Band-Aids — ineffective and costly ones at that.
 
These packages cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year, and payments to farmers came too late to be useful. I was a claims adjuster at this time and shared the view of farmers, rural communities and Congress that we needed a change. Thanks to congressional efforts to strengthen crop insurance, it has become more affordable and available for agricultural producers of all sizes and across all regions.
 
Fast forward to today and it’s clear that maintaining our effective crop insurance program must be a top priority, especially in this tough farm economy. Crop insurance provides lenders the ability to extend credit to farmers to produce what our families and economy need to keep going: food, fiber, feed and fuel. Insured farmers have the confidence to invest in equipment and technologies to compete in the global market. The federal government shares risk with crop insurers and shares costs with farmers, so that taxpayers aren’t footing the whole bill. Crop insurers and agents work to provide timely and personalized service to America’s farmers and are good stewards of taxpayer dollars, delivering aid after disasters more efficiently and with less waste than the government.
 
The numbers speak for themselves. Today, crop insurance protects around 90 percent of insurable land and more than 130 different kinds of crops. American farmers purchased 1.2 million policies last year that provide $106 billion in protection on 311 million acres, greatly diminishing the need for ad hoc assistance. For example, despite being one of the worst weather years on record, 2012 required zero ad hoc disaster assistance. Even under circumstances where aid is needed, Congress still upholds the integrity of the program. For example, the aid provided to Florida citrus farmers following the devastation caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria required recipients to purchase meaningful crop insurance coverage for the future.
 
The success of our crop insurance system strengthens the economies of our farming communities. According to a Farm Credit Services of America study, in 2012, crop insurance saved more than 20,000 jobs across Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. The 16 United States Department of Agriculture-approved crop insurers are providing thousands of jobs in these and many other rural communities across the country that support farmers and ranchers. Zurich North America’s Rural Community Insurance Services alone insures 52 million acres of America’s farmland, supporting 3,600 crop insurance agents and 970 claims professionals.
 
Every farm bill reauthorization comes with calls for American farmers to face the cruel realities of weather and market volatility. Those include proposals that would reverse the tremendous progress made in crop insurance participation and affordability, program integrity and private sector efficiencies.
 
Whether these calls arise in the administration’s budget proposals or as legislative amendments, proposals to reduce risk management coverage and weaken private sector delivery must be rejected. Keep crop insurance strong for American farmers and ranchers, our rural communities and our food supply.

 

Crop Insurance Acreage Sets New Mark in 2017
 
2017 was a historic year for crop insurance, with 311 million acres enrolled in the system. For perspective, that’s an area roughly the size of California, Texas and New York combined.
 
The good news was delivered by Mike Day, chairman of National Crop Insurance Services (NCIS), during the industry’s recent annual meeting.
 
He also told the group that insurers backed more than $106 billion worth of crops in 2017, up $6 billion since 2016. And farmers paid $3.7 billion out of their own pockets for insurance protection – a more than $250 million increase from the year before.
 
“Today, crop insurance protects around 90 percent of the insurable land and more than 130 different kinds of crops,” said Day, who heads Rural Community Insurance Services (RCIS) for Zurich North America. “Congress made crop insurance the cornerstone of farm policy, and it is important not just for farmers and rural communities, but for taxpayers and consumers alike.”
 
Despite its popularity, some farm policy opponents are angling to cut crop insurance funding in the upcoming Farm Bill debate.
Day said that would be a mistake, pointing out Congress’ efforts to make crop insurance affordable and available for farmers and economically viable enough to encourage efficient private-sector delivery.

“Interrupt any of those three pillars, as some farm policy critics are advocating, and you undo all the progress that has been made over the past three decades,” he noted.

NCIS President Tom Zacharias echoed Day’s comments and encouraged agriculture to work hand-in-hand during the Farm Bill to defend farmers’ primary risk management tool. He also urged his colleagues to maintain their vigilance in providing superior customer service and coordinating with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
 
“Farmers must continue to realize the economic value of today’s crop insurance system and have confidence that both government and the private sector are committed to its continued success,” Zacharias concluded.
 
Risk Management Minutes:  A video series from NCIS on crop insurance and the Farm Bill 
Watch the first installment of the Risk Management Minutes video series, which examines crop insurance and the Farm Bill.
 
Republished with permission by NCIS, February 2018.
Farm Bill Progress Update
 
Crop insurance agents working with RCIS can rest assured that the company understands the role of the federal government in crop insurance. RCIS maintains a government affairs team to proactively share its perspective with policymakers in Washington, D.C., which is critically important with farm bill reauthorization underway.  
 
Christy Seyfert leads RCIS government affairs efforts in the nation’s capital. She monitors policy developments and works daily to protect crop insurance and private sector delivery.
 
“The current farm bill expires September 30, 2018. House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders aim to keep the farm bill process on track and develop a farm bill that is responsive to farmers’ needs in this tough farm economy,” says Christy.
 
“We expect February, March, as the timeframe for pretty heavy activity at both the committee level in Congress as well as full House and full Senate consideration of the 2018 Farm Bill,” Christy says. “During these processes, critics will have the opportunity to offer amendments to the farm bill.”
 
RCIS places a priority on maintaining a robust crop insurance program delivered by the private sector. “We want to make sure that in this difficult farm economy, farmers continue to have access to affordable crop insurance coverage that is delivered in a timely and personalized manner by the private sector,” Christy says.
 
“We're pleased that the committee leadership recognizes the value in crop insurance for farmers, consumers, and taxpayers,” Christy says. “They have heard farmers and ranchers across the country, as well as lenders and other input suppliers, talk about the need for maintaining this important risk management tool.”
 
According to Christy, committee leaders understand that crop insurance helps farmers manage risk and continue producing year in and year out for a growing world population.
 
“Crop insurance is also important to taxpayers,” Christy says. “It requires cost sharing with farmers and private sector insurance providers so that it is not fully funded by the government.”
 
“It's a worthwhile investment for folks all across the country, and we believe that it's an investment worth protecting in the farm bill,” she says.
 
How to help
Christy encourages those interested in protecting crop insurance and private sector delivery in the farm bill to call, email or visit their legislators.
 
“I served as congressional staff for many years and, when a policymaker hears directly from a voter about what's important to him or her, it makes a difference,” she says.
 
Christy also encourages RCIS team members, as well as agents, to prioritize customer service.
 
“When policyholders get good service, they're more likely to appreciate private sector involvement. They're more likely to let their national organizations or their legislators know that private sector delivery of crop insurance is valued,” she says.
 
“We've got a team that goes above and beyond in servicing policyholders. And that really matters,” Christy adds. “Whether you are on the front lines or in the back room or in compliance or in technology, all of these efforts make a difference for the customer.”
 
A successful public-private partnership
Overall, Christy is optimistic about the farm bill, lawmaker awareness and the process of crafting and passing the legislation.
 
“By design, crop insurance is a great success,” she says. “I think Congress, over time, has been intentional about supporting crop insurance because it is a responsible risk management tool. It is widely supported by lenders, farm groups, agents, farm equipment dealers and input suppliers, and it's a system that works well.”
 
“We're proud to be a part of this successful public-private partnership and do our very best to serve farmers and ranchers every day. We hope that we can maintain crop insurance as we know it or even improve it, as we look ahead to the next farm bill,” Christy says.
 
Come grow with us
RCIS is committed to supporting agents through a complete package of tools in a variety of platforms, a complete suite of private products, highly responsive claims service and local, well-trained adjusters.
 
“When it comes to crop insurance integrity, excellence and success at RCIS, we’ve got this,” Christy says.
 
Agents interested in learning more about working with RCIS are encouraged to visit RCIS.com or call at 1-800-451-3836; press 1, enter 2519.
 
Some products not available in all states or counties. This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available to qualified customers provided solely for informational purposes. Coverage is underwritten in all states by Rural Community Insurance Company, Anoka, MN except in Montana where hail coverage is underwritten by Tri-County Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, Malta, MT. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, offer, advice, recommendation, or any other service with regard to any type of insurance product or services. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage, terms and conditions. The description of the policy provisions gives a broad overview of coverages and does not revise or amend the policy. Coverage may vary by state. Coverages and rates are subject to individual insured meeting our underwriting qualifications and product availability in applicable states. RCIS is a registered trademark of Rural Community Insurance Company. RCIC is an equal opportunity provider. © 2018 Rural Community Insurance Company. All rights reserved.
  
Ag Producers: Protect More of Your Bottom Line
 
If you’re like most farmers, you insured your crops under the federal crop insurance program authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Federal Crop Insurance Corporation.
 
In fact, farmers say crop insurance is their most important risk management tool.
 
Revenue Protection policies comprise more than 75 percent of the federal crop insurance policies sold. These policies are designed to protect against loss of revenue caused by low prices, low yields or a combination of both.
 
“Federal crop insurance can cover 75 to 85 percent of projected revenue, depending on the level of coverage the individual selects,” says Rod Nelson, RCIS field service manager.
 
However, relying solely on federal crop insurance leaves anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of a farmer’s operation at risk. That’s when some farmers turn to private coverage products to protect more of their bottom line.
 
Brothers Brian and Jeff Borgmeier are fifth-generation farmers who grow corn and soybeans near Kasota, Minn. As RCIS clients, the brothers insure 85 percent of projected revenue through federal crop insurance.
 
“Revenue protection is the federal crop insurance product that we use,” says Jeff. “We also have a replant policy or rider on top of the federal crop insurance. Then we have an additional hail coverage product with a wind endorsement.”
 
The Borgmeiers see quite a bit of hail in their area, so the hail protection product is important for their operation.
 
Jeff says, “If you’ve lived through a hail storm a week before soybean harvest, that's a scary thing—to get that close and then in a few seconds lose the whole crop. That is a big reason why we like to have hail insurance on soybeans.”
 
Private products allow customization
 
Nelson explains that producers use private insurance products to meet the needs of their specific operations.
 
For some farmers, private coverage products are used to help cover the deductible of the federal crop insurance.
 
“For example, if you had a 200-bushel corn crop and it was at $4 a bushel, you get $800 of value,” Nelson says. “Your federal crop insurance is going to be maybe 80 percent of that, or $640, so you're looking to cover that $160 an acre.”
 
Other growers depend on private coverage products to support an operating loan. “I think it’s important for lenders to know that the grain is insured,” says Brian Borgmeier. “They feel a little more comfortable making a loan knowing that there's insurance involved that will guarantee our ability to repay those loans.”
 
Another reason some farmers obtain private coverage policies is to better align the coverage with marketing strategies for their operation. 
 
“Our hail coverage product is a big part of our marketing program,” says Jeff. “We like to forward sell before we harvest. If we would have a drought event or a hail event where we wouldn't get enough bushels to fill those contracts, we can rely on our insurance helping to take care of those commitments. With the hail insurance, we're more confident forward selling.”
 
“Once we get to March first, that price is set and we know our yield history, so we pretty much can nail down a dollar per acre number that we're guaranteed,” says Brian.
 
“It's just easier to plan,” he adds. “And it makes it easier to sleep at night when the weather isn’t cooperating.” 
 
Producers typically work closely with their crop insurance agents to select private coverage products. It’s customized, Nelson explains, because some farmers are interested in coverage for all their acres, for instance, and others may be interested in covering particular fields.
 
“Farmers choose private coverage products based on how their budgets are put together,” Nelson says. “It depends upon their own individual financial situation and how much risk they're willing to take themselves. That’s something that crop insurance agents can help them determine.”
 
RCIS offers a full suite of private coverage products developed to meet producers’ needs, including Added Price Option, Added Revenue Price Option, Revenue Protection Policy and RPowerD™, a new product with a higher level of revenue protection and added flexibility.
   
Excellent claims handling is key
 
One consideration for farmers selecting private coverage products is the claims handling process offered by the insurance company.
 
The Borgmeiers have found RCIS to be extremely responsive.
 
“Our agent is our first phone call, and she puts in the claim,” says Brian. “Then the adjusters contact us directly and we set up a time we can meet to look at the fields.”
 
Jeff says, “A lot of times we'll hear from the adjuster within 24 hours of our call to our agent. And most of the adjusters are local people.”
 
“Then we’ll go with the adjuster to assess the damage,” he says. “In a lot of cases they have to defer it because they need to see how it acts throughout the season before they can finalize it.”
 
he Boorgmeiers say the process is quick and painless. “They take very good care of us. They've always been very fair. It's been a real good process,” says Brian.
 
They appreciate the service they receive from RCIS. “When we’ve had losses, I think they've been real prompt on payment,” says Jeff. “We've never had an issue where payments were held up, and that’s good.”  
 
The brothers also like the fact that RCIS is one of the nation’s leading crop insurance companies. “We’ve heard stories over the years of smaller companies not being able to pay in a large event,” says Brian.
 
“It could be an issue because a smaller insurance company just wouldn't have the funds. So we like the idea of being with a big enough company, like RCIS, where that's not going to be an issue,” he says.
 
To learn more about RCIS, visit rcis.com or talk to your crop insurance agent.
 
Some products not available in all states or counties. This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available to qualified customers provided solely for informational purposes. Coverage is underwritten in all states by Rural Community Insurance Company, Anoka, MN except in Montana where hail coverage is underwritten by Tri-County Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, Malta, MT. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, offer, advice, recommendation, or any other service with regard to any type of insurance product or services. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage, terms and conditions. The description of the policy provisions gives a broad overview of coverages and does not revise or amend the policy. Coverage may vary by state. Coverages and rates are subject to individual insured meeting our underwriting qualifications and product availability in applicable states. RCIS is a registered trademark of Rural Community Insurance Company. RCIC is an equal opportunity provider. © 2018 Rural Community Insurance Company. All rights reserved.
 
Help Crop Insurance Clients Ride Out Tough Ag Economy
By Rod Nelson, Regional Service Manager, RCIS
 
As a crop insurance agent, your job may have become more challenging in the last few years.
 
When the ag economy began its nosedive in 2013, producers began scrutinizing expenses and tightening their belts.
 
Farm Policy News reported in February 2017 that real farm income fell by almost 30 percent since 2013, according to USDA Chief Economist Robert C. Johansson. (http://farmpolicynews.illinois.edu/2017/02/outlook-u-s-agriculture-usdas-chief-economist/) Since that time, producers have also become concerned by uncertainties around the Farm Bill, U.S. and foreign countries’ trade policies and volatile markets.
 
While it’s a tough time to be part of the ag economy, every challenge presents opportunity. How can you help your crop insurance clients succeed?
 
The role of crop insurance
Producers rely on crop insurance for ongoing financial stability. It helps farmers manage risk, secure lending and improve their operations.
 
No two farms are alike. Conditions, challenges and potential threats vary dramatically from one operation to the next. That’s why your in-depth understanding of farming is so important. By helping identify potential problems, you can help each producer pinpoint that operation’s specific risk management needs.
 
Armed with the right tools, you can develop an individualized risk management strategy. You can help your clients customize their insurance plans to meet their specific goals and provide protection from projected risks.
 
Private coverage products
The tools available to you shape your ability to customize your clients’ risk management strategies.
 
Private coverage products vary from one insurance company to another. When considering which company to work with, be sure to review its private products.
 
RCIS® offers a suite of private coverage products with options for all types of farming operations, including:
 
•  Added Price Option
•  Added Revenue Price Option
•  Hail, Wind, Fire
•  Late Plant Option
•  Replant Option
•  Revenue Protection Policy
 
Recently introduced RCIS private coverage products are increasingly sophisticated and provide a variety of flexible options for agents working with producers. For the 2018 growing season, RCIS debuted RPowerD™, a private revenue product with flexibility
.
A
n RPowerD policy can help align crop revenue insurance coverage with farmers’ marketing strategies for their opera­tions. It can reduce crop insurance deductibles with an increase in level of coverage.
 
With additional ways to set price election, the RPowerD policy helps give farmers greater flexibility in revenue coverage, allowing them to lock in the market price before RMA announces the projected price for the crop they will cover.
 
In addition, the RPowerD policy provides policyholders flexibility in establishing the insured price. They may purchase their coverage early and choose from a variety of pricing methods:
 
• RP policy projected price
• Additional price coverage
• Market price
• One or more pricing intervals in full- or half-month increments
 
Compared to an RP policy, RPowerD offers expanded sales and purchase period, higher coverage levels, more price determination methods and the ability to capture spikes in market prices.
 
Get to know RCIS
RCIS is committed to supporting agents through a complete package of tools in a variety of platforms, our complete suite of private products, highly responsive claims service and local, well-trained adjusters.
 
We invite you to come grow with us. To learn more about how RCIS supports agents, please take a look at the video*
 
When it comes to crop insurance integrity, excellence and success, we’ve got this.
 
Please visit RCIS.com for additional information or call us today about becoming an agent at 1-800-451-3836; press 1, enter 2519.
 
Some products not available in all states or counties. This is intended as a general description of certain types of insurance and services available to qualified customers provided solely for informational purposes. Coverage is underwritten in all states by Rural Community Insurance Company, Anoka, MN except in Montana where hail coverage is underwritten by Tri-County Farmers Mutual Insurance Company, Malta, MT. Nothing herein should be construed as a solicitation, offer, advice, recommendation, or any other service with regard to any type of insurance product or services. Your policy is the contract that specifically and fully describes your coverage, terms and conditions. The description of the policy provisions gives a broad overview of coverages and does not revise or amend the policy. Coverage may vary by state. Coverages and rates are subject to individual insured meeting our underwriting qualifications and product availability in applicable states. RCIS is a registered trademark of Rural Community Insurance Company. RCIC is an equal opportunity provider. © 2018 Rural Community Insurance Company. All rights reserved.
 
RCIS® Values Crop Insurance Agents
By Mike Day, Head of RCIS
 
As a crop insurance agent, you play a vital role in the success of the U.S. food and agricultural systems.
 
At RCIS, we recognize the importance of crop insurance agents. We value your work, your expertise and your commitment to serving American farmers.
 
Key to farm risk management portfolios, in good times and bad.
 
In good times and bad, farmers are committed to providing food, feed, fuel, and fiber to a growing world population.  Like you, we are committed to helping farmers manage weather and market risks that they face each day. 
 
By helping farmers obtain, understand and utilize crop insurance, you help provide options to support and strengthen farm operations and the overall industry. Consider that crop insurance can:
 
• Offer farmers insurance protection
Because farming is fraught with uncertainties and circumstances beyond farmers’ control, such as hail, flooding, drought, and market volatility, crop insurance offers farmers much-needed risk management insurance protection.
 
• Provide farmers with individualized risk management strategies
 
Farmers can customize their plans and coverage to help meet their specific needs and potential risks, and your work to guide them through coverage options is critically important.
 
• Give farmers access to the financial resources they need
Crop insurance enables farmers to secure lending each year, allowing for continued investment in their operations and helping provide food, fuel, feed, and fiber for a growing world population.
 
How RCIS helps you
Just as you are committed to serving your clients, RCIS is committed to supporting our agents.
 
RCIS is a leader in the U.S. crop insurance industry, helping agents through:
 
• Tools to help you save time and gain efficiencies
Providing agents with a complete package of tools including web portals, mobile applications, and mapping services to respond to policyholder needs.
 
• Advanced technologies
Technology is always changing, and we know as one of the leading national crop insurance providers, we are committed to a continual investment in our technological capabilities. We aim to stay on the cutting edge through precision farming, crop reporting and mapping technologies.
 
• An open door for feedback
We have heard from many crop insurance agents about additional ways that RCIS can provide a better overall agency experience. Your hands-on experience helps us make the right decisions on how to best implement improvements. 
 
RCIS also supports you with private coverage products, outstanding claims service, dedicated field representatives, four regional service offices and enhanced processing speed, accuracy and convenience.
 
Plus, your clients will appreciate our strong focus on customer service and satisfaction.

Crop insurance agent support? We’ve got this.
To learn more about how RCIS supports agents, please take a look at the video*
 
When it comes to crop insurance integrity, excellence and success, we’ve got this. And we invite you to come grow with us.
 
Please visit RCIS.com for additional information or call us today about becoming an agent at 1-800-451-3836; press 1, enter 2519.   
 
 
  
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There when you need us most 
 
Revenue Protection Options

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