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Questions You Should Ask Your Insurance Agent

Dry fall, unusual thefts raising questions about coverage.

Are your house and your barns covered if an airplane falls out of the sky and lands on them, burning them down and destroying equipment? OK, who would ask that question- the odds are astronomically small that it could happen to you. Wait a minute, isn't that why you pay for insurance- to be protected against calamities that don't happen often, and shouldn't happen, but that can and do happen to someone?

Taking your farm insurance coverage for granted and not sitting down with your insurance agent at least once a year to review specific types of coverage for specific types of losses could turn out to be a nightmare, should you fall victim to one of those more unusual situations. Farm Progress editors have uncovered several situations where airplanes didn't fall out of sky, but which some farmers consider just as unlikely to happen tot them. Yet these incidents have happened to Midwest farmers.

Ask your insurance agent these questions and see what type of response you get. The answers he or she gives you might shed light on the type of coverage you really have, and if it's as ironclad as you believe it to be. These are based on real situations which have happened this summer or fall, or else very recently. Later, look for opinions from insurance agents on these issues on the Web site. For now, ponder the questions and make sure you pose them to your insurance agent the next chance that you get.

My combine was brand new –a dozen hours- and burnt up completely in the field. How much coverage do I have? Will the insurance company depreciate the machine, even though it was brand new? How will they determine the price of the machine? What does your policy say, if anything, about down time and your need to pay for a rental machine to get you and running again?

My neighbor's combine sparked a fire in his field, and it burnt up my 40-acre corn field. Who is liable? It can be even more complicated- what if the neighbor had someone custom-combining the crop? Then is the custom operator at fault, and will his insurance kick in, even though the fire wasn't due to negligence on his part?

My insurance company wants to price the corn at today's price. I cry foul- I was going to store it and turn more profit. Shouldn't carry into some future price be allowed? How do insurance companies pout a price on standing crops."

"We're no-tillers and have built up residue over the past 12-15 years. A fire started from a spark by a railroad train burned up 60 acres of stubble. The field was already harvested. So the insurance company thinks they're off the hook. We don't think so- we want to be compensated for the residue value we lost. In a no-till system, that residue is extremely important. Will an insurance company allow value for stalks burnt after harvest? If so, how will they determine the value?

Theft of copper wire off irrigation rigs has become a big deal in my area. It can cost $4,000 to $5,000 to rewire a rig, depending upon the length of it, and whether the thieves damaged key parts or not in removing the wire. Does insurance cover this theft? Does it take a special rider on the farm policy? And what if they hit multiple units- is each one a separate claim with its own deductible, or is it one lump sum loss since it happened at the same time?

Questions like these might have your insurance agent scratching his or her head. But it's better to know upfront than to get startling news about lack of coverage at a later date.

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