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Company markets new crop insurance

By Staff | Feb 25, 2011

CLARION – A California company is marketing a new crop insurance product throughout the Midwest that appears to be getting serious farmer attention.

Called Total Weather Insurance, the product, being sold by WeatherBill, covers the profit margin of crops above what federal crop insurance covers.

“You have to have a really bad year before to get federal crop payments,”?said Brandon Thompson, a Clarion-area corn and soybean grower.

“The last two years we’ve had really big rains and my yields were down 35 to 40 percent.”

TWI offers a variety of ways to cover crops, whether it’s from heavy spring rains, droughts, heat stresses, mid-season protection or harvest rains. The program is set up so if producers don’t file claims in event of a weather event, the payments are issued automatically.

Growers can purchase any number of the protections and cover as many acres under each program as they wish.

Thompson said the TWI policy he purchased from local agent Kent Kirstein, of Sumners Insurance Agency, in Clarion, covers 60 to 70 percent of his 2,000 acres, with 200 acres under high-risk spring rain coverage.

“I may also pick up a late-season harvest policy,”?Thompson said. He has until March 15 to add that protection.

According to Kirstein there are a number of growers who are looking seriously at this program.

“I’d say quite a few want to get their feet wet,”?he said.

With the predictions for a drought year by Iowa State University Climatologist Elwynn Taylor, coupled with record rainfalls over the past few years, “growers are looking to protect their high-priced commodities,”?Kirstein said.

With market analysts predicting corn futures to surpass well over $7 and soybeans over $15 by 2011 harvest, Kirstein explained, the TWI program covers the profitability of a grower’s crop.

That means that federal crop insurance covers about 75 percent of a crop, based on actual production history. “FCIP won’t pay out until you drop below that 75 percent, said Greg Smirin, WeatherBill’s vice president of products and marketing. “The break-even line is about 60 to 63 percent of the historic yield, so the profits are exposed.”

If a grower’s inputs are $670 per acre and FCIP covers 63 percent of the income, that leaves $248 per acre of profits unprotected. That’s where TWI comes into play, Smirin said.

TWI has recorded the 30-year weather history of each area, based on a 12-by-12-mile grid. Weather records are taken from official weather monitors. WeatherBill has determined how much yield is affected by each weather event. Once an event occurs requiring policy payout, the policyholder gets a check automatically, covering the yield loss of that event for each covered acre.

In Thompson’s case, 99 percent of all yield losses in Wright County are caused by weather events.

Thompson has covered about two-thirds of his acres for springs rains that would delay planting or hinder emergence. He opted to not take drought coverage, however. “In our location we have heavy, black dirt which can handle drought better.”

Thompson said that if TWI had been available in 2010, the insurance would have paid out on every covered rain event throughout the growing season.

So, what’s the downside?

“Well you could pay the premiums,” said agent Kirstein, “and not have a claim.”

Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141, Ext. 453 or kersh@farm-news.com.

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