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A day with 200 insurance agents can alter your perspective

group of people looking at grain center
HAZARDS AND LIABILITY: Jim Beaty leads a group of insurance agents on a tour through a grain center, pointing out potential physical and liability risks.
Are you sure you have enough coverage in a changing agricultural environment?

If you think this is a commercial for insurance, think again. Hopefully, it’s an eye-opener that causes you to re-examine your insurance coverage as a risk management tool. You can’t spend a day at a training session with 200 insurance agents without seeing the need for risk management.

Thanks to Jim Beaty for telling me about the 2018 Farm Ag Insurance Conference, held this spring at the Beck Agricultural Center at Purdue University’s Agronomy Center for Research and Education. And thanks to the Independent Insurance Agents of Indiana, sponsor of the conference, for allowing me to attend.

Beaty is the superintendent of ACRE. He and six Extension and Purdue ACRE professionals provided tours of the farm, emphasizing potential hazards around a farmstead. During other sessions, insurance agents learned about technology involved in modern farming. The purpose of the day was to make sure agents who write policies for farmers understand what farmers encounter daily on a modern farm.

For example, you probably take it for granted that there are risks around a grain center — maybe sometimes you take it for granted too much. Beaty pointed out that when you have tall structures, ladders, electricity, grain dust, augers and plenty of equipment running here and there, there are lots of hazards. Even just tripping and falling can cause a costly injury.  

Not Grandpa’s farming
Farming has always been a dangerous occupation, but many of the risks today are different. Jeff Wilson, vice president of farm and ranch for State Auto Insurance Cos. and a farmer himself, explained that with tractors featuring autosteer and all kinds of electronics — and with tractors that drive themselves coming soon — the dangers are different than even 20 to 30 years ago, when people farmed with basic tractors and combines before technology exploded.

The other big difference today is the costs associated if something bad happens. You’re talking hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars if an employee suffers a life-changing injury, or if you or an employee is involved in an accident that results in bodily injury or death to someone else.

Darrell Boone, Wabash, Ind., recently wrote about liability risk if an accident occurs on the road involving you or an employee, whether you’re at fault or not. Wilson and other speakers during the insurance training drove home the point that in today’s world, lawyers will come after your assets if they sense there is money there. Sometimes juries award settlements that outstrip your coverage, even if you have an umbrella policy.

Bottom line
The take-home message I’m bringing to you is that if you haven’t sat down with your insurance agent for a while, maybe you should. Go beyond just whether you have adequate coverage on buildings and equipment. Do you have adequate liability coverage for farming in 2018?

My philosophy on insurance has evolved. I’ve concluded that its most important function is to protect you from things you simply couldn’t survive financially. They may not be likely, but if the possibility of them happening is greater than zero, aren’t they worth considering?

I’ve carried earthquake insurance for many years on my home. Have I thrown that money away? Maybe. But I’ve had the peace of mind that if the unthinkable happened, I could survive. My day with 200 insurance agents reassured me that risk protection is a major benefit of insurance. It just might be worth another look.

Comments? Email tom.bechman@farmprogress.com.

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