“For all sad words of tongue and pen,
The saddest are these, ‘It might have been’.”
— “Maud Muller”, John Greenleaf Whittier
It’s easy for a judge or an arbitrator to understand the disappointment of a farmer who’s invested his time, his sweat and his financial resources in a crop, who’s seen it flower and ripen, only to watch a late summer thunderstorm bring it all to ruin before the crop can be harvested. It’s a different kind of heartbreak when adverse weather prevents a farmer from planting at all. No one wants to be the kid riding the pine in Little League, or the traveler who runs up to the departure gate sixty seconds after the plane’s door has been shut, but sometimes Mother Nature simply will not cooperate.
The farmer whose finds more mud than dirt when he takes his tractor into the fields can relate. Adding insult to injury, his prevent plant claim on his crop insurance policy is harder to prove than the claim of a farmer who can show the adjusters a storm-damaged crop knocked down in its prime.
Prevent plant claims depend on demonstrating that not only that the individual insured was prevented from planting, but that other farmers were also affected. As the 2017 Common Crop Insurance Policy Basic Provisions has it:
Failure to plant the insured crop by the final planting date designated in the Special Provisions for the insured crop in the county, or within any applicable late planting period, due to an insured cause of loss that is general to the surrounding area and that prevents other producers from planting acreage with similar characteristics. Failure to plant because of uninsured causes such as lack of proper equipment or labor to plant acreage, or use of a particular production method, is not considered prevented planting.
Producers beware; this wording leaves cost-cutting adjusters plenty of room to invent reasons for denying claims. “General to the surround area” is a very subjective determination, as any farmer who’s seen a half inch of rain fall on the back 40 while not a drop falls on the shop knows. Likewise, what exactly constitutes “acreage with similar characteristics” is a question that insurers tend to answer to their own advantage and the detriment of producers.
If your prevent plant claim is denied because your adjuster is wrongly comparing your operation to farms facing different conditions, you need to know your rights. Your claim is not invalid just because your crop insurance provider says so, and your contractual rights under your policy do not evaporate just because the AIP has sent you a denial letter. With diligent, experienced legal counsel, you can obtain the coverage you paid for, even if nothing else has gone quite to plan.