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Why you should review crop and liability insurance before spraying herbicides

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In addition to crop insurance, general liability insurance might help with third-party herbicide injury.

Recent issues with dicamba spray drift have highlighted the need for producers to understand third-party liability associated with all herbicide applications, said University of Missouri Extension economist Ray Massey.

Massey presented information about liability risks related to herbicide application at MU Extension’s annual Crop Management Conference in December.

“It’s always important that growers understand their liability when using certain products and consult an attorney who specializes in this area for legal advice about any specific third-party pesticide injury,” Massey said.

Crop insurance does not cover damage from pesticide drift, according to the crop insurance manual of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency, Massey said. However, farmers may exclude yield from damaged acres in their Actual Production History numbers if they report damages to their insurer within 72 hours.

In addition to crop insurance, general liability insurance might help with third-party herbicide injury, Massey said.

“The cause of loss is a critical hurdle for insurance companies to clear because of the various causes of herbicide injury,” Massey said. Third-party herbicide injuries can include spray tank contamination, herbicide drift and volatilization.

“Liability insurance usually covers accidental tank contamination and drift, but it is less clear whether herbicide injury due to volatility is a covered loss,” Massey said.

If liability insurance companies approve a crop injury claim, they likely will wait until after harvest to settle so they can estimate yield loss, especially because more than just herbicide injury could affect yield in a field or a portion of it, Massey said.

Here are tips he suggested:

  • Verify that your applicator is certified to apply the pesticide being used. Check the applicator’s license. If you spray your own field, take the required training and become certified.
  • Review your farm’s policies and procedures for spraying decisions.
  • Review your application for general liability coverage insurance. Update your application if you have made any changes in your farm operation since applying. This includes hiring an employee.
  • If you spray your own fields, make sure you have a spray endorsement provision in your policy. If you spray for others, verify that your spray endorsement covers commercial as well as private applications.

Missouri Department of Agriculture requires all certified applicators to complete online or in-person training before buying or using dicamba. MDA designated MU Extension as the state’s sole training source for required dicamba training.

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