As growers begin to assess the damage left by Hurricane Ian, there’s some important considerations to keep in mind. Kimberly Lott, with Crop Disaster Recovery, provides five tips. She noted that many growers didn’t receive the full amount of money they could have been eligible for after Hurricane Irma — reporting and documentation are key.
1. REPORT LOSSES, GET INSPECTION
Growers need to call and report losses to their crop insurance agents and request the adjusters come out for site inspections, even if they do not meet their policy’s requirement for loss. This is critical for several reasons, and the growers need to know to fight for it.
Keep these points in mind:
- It is hard to predict what losses will be, and growers may end up qualifying for an indemnity payment later down the road.
- If not reported timely, typical policy clauses provide, that if unreported within 15 days from Sept. 29, they are automatically ineligible.
- Most importantly, U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA FSA) inspections of loss are required for program eligibility and will be difficult to obtain at all in some areas, very late in many more. Late inspections are consisted less accurate. Loss reports from qualified adjusters can be used as a substitute for the (FSA) inspections of loss or inspections for other USDA program(s) that roll out in the future. There are very few other substitute inspections that the USDA accepts. Crop insurance adjusters are the best alternative and free to the growers.
2. EMAIL LOSSES TO FSA
Growers should email their losses to their local FSA office. They need to submit this in writing. The agency is going to be overloaded and is incredibly short staffed (even more so than with Hurricane Irma), and producers will be lost in the shuffle.
If a grower visits an FSA office, request an FSA date-stamped copy of everything turned in or submitted, written or verbal. This step is critical.
There needs to be at least a 30% loss ratio countywide, for at least one commodity to open the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) and emergency Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) programs.
“We’ve got good FSA people up at our state office, so I do not foresee this being an issue, but the 30% is procedure,” says Lott.
3. DOCUMENT EVERYTHING
Growers need to take pictures. Drone video is always good. Growers should measure how much they are flooded and keep track of how long they are flooded.
Keep an accordion folder or bank bag in the pickup truck to collect all receipts, invoices, etc. A daily log is incredibly helpful when looking back at timeliness. When submitting pictures for ECP (cleanup program), FSA typically only wants three to 10 pictures, but growers should take more pictures, not less. If pump houses, barns and fences are destroyed, take pictures.
4. GET RECEIPTS FOR CLEANUP HELP
If growers are paying for cleanup help in cash, go to Walmart, an office supply store or order on Amazon a carbonless cash receipt book with duplicates. Have workers sign the cash receipt. The cash receipt needs to list the person’s full legal name, otherwise it will not be accepted for ECP.
5. PUT IT IN WRITING
If there are any problems with an application or payment, the decision lies with the USDA National Appeals Division. Extensive documentation is a producer’s greatest advantage. Logbooks are good, any records from the usual course of business are good, but best of all are written (typically emailed) correspondences with local FSA offices showing that producers are proactive in reporting losses and requesting help to enroll in available programs.