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There is More to Crop Insurance Than Signing Up

Written by Kyle Mahuika, Sunnyslope Insurance – June 2024

budding pears
Frost marking on young Bartlett pear fruit.
Photo by: Tory Schmidt, WTFRC

Agriculture is a volatile business, and every year farmers face numerous challenges that jeopardize their livelihoods. As I meet with growers in many different regions, all too often I hear them say “in all the years I’ve been farming, I have never seen weather or industry conditions like this.” Unpredictable weather patterns beyond the growers’ control damage their crops because of deep freezes, extreme heat, hail, wind, fire, drought, insects, and floods.

If the weather was not enough, fruit growers’ profitability is also subject to labor regulations, packing and shipping costs, America’s global relations and trade policies, and downward pressure on prices from large retailers. Crop insurance is a critical risk management tool available to fruit growers, and it’s not as easy as just signing up. There are many forms of crop insurance that are specific to each commodity such as yield protection, revenue protection, quality options, hail insurance, and whole farm revenue insurance.

With frost season and bloom behind us, the 2024 fruit growing season is well underway. Early Northwest cherry growers are starting to harvest, and the apple and pear crop is hanging on the tree. At this time of year, it is too late for new applicants. The deadline to sign up for fruit insurance in the Northwest is November 20th, and whole farm revenue March 15th.

When signing up for crop insurance, find an agent with expert knowledge in the crops that you grow, and in the region where you are growing them. An expert agent will have extensive claim experience to help you navigate through tricky situations and will have your business with insurance carriers that are fair and pay the claims that are owed.

Effective crop insurance policies should consider many different factors: total acres, number of commodities, different growing regions, the difficulties of farming specific varieties, grower economic situation, current and future market conditions to name a few. The grower should decide a level of coverage they want from 50% to 85% depending on the commodity. The minimum coverage level of 50% with the basic options is usually not advisable, although it is the most budget-friendly. Remember that most crop insurance is a government program, and the premiums are subsidized to make it affordable. In other words, you are paying a lot less than the market value of the insurance.

Claims are where the rubber meets the road. First, notify your agent of adverse weather early and often. There is significant risk of forfeiting your payment if the claim is turned in late. The largest claim our agency has paid to date was to a grower that insisted there would be no need to submit the claim; we didn’t listen. Another reason to be diligent is damaged fruit that is not reported will be denied. An example of this would be a pack out showing hail damaged fruit with no report of hail event. Never forget, unharvested fruit and fruit with quality problems must be inspected by the adjuster prior to harvest. If the fruit is not inspected it will not be considered for a claim payment. When the inspection takes place, make sure the results of the inspection are agreeable.

Exploring all your insurance options would include Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP). WFRP is the most comprehensive crop insurance available to fruit growers. The policy is a gross revenue guarantee to the grower for all commodities grown in the crop year. The coverage extends to low yields, poor quality, and market price. To evaluate the effectiveness of the WFRP policy for your operation, determine the guaranteed revenue per farmed acre. If the amount of guaranteed revenue is sufficient for your operation, then WFRP is a great option for your orchard. If the number is less than you would hope, consider exploring higher levels of fruit insurance.

The question that is always on the forefront is, when do I get paid? Claim payments depend on the type of claim. Yield claims can be determined once the yield is known, and in most cases the earliest claim paid. Quality claims depend on pack outs, so payments must wait until your fruit is packed. You have to be patient with WFRP claims. WFRP claims are paid once all revenue has been received and current taxes are filed. Closing pools depend on individual warehouses and can vary greatly.

In conclusion there are many crop insurance coverage options available to growers from conservative to aggressive. There is a policy that will fit the needs of each grower, so seek out a competent agent, learn your options, and add stability to the financial future of your orchard and legacy.


Kyle Mahuika, professional photo
Kyle Mahuika
Sunnyslope Insurance

Washington State University