Good Farming Practices

Good Farming Practices

Crop insurance companies frequently deny crop insurance claims due to the farmer’s alleged “failure to follow good farming practices.”  Often, the initial determination is made by an adjuster or claims personnel who never made a crop and never stepped foot in a field of the crop adjusted except as an adjuster.

Although the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) and the Risk Management Agency (RMA), have special handbooks that describe in detail how these “good farming practices,” or GFP, determinations should be made, these procedures are often ignored and left to the judgment of an inexperienced or biased adjuster.

The GFP determination is governed by a remarkably short deadline – just thirty (30) days to request review through a dizzying administrative process with the Regional Offices of RMA.  On day 31, the farmer is out of luck and the determination that he “failed to follow good farming practices” cannot be challenged.

While the GFP determination is an administrative matter that must be addressed to the RMA and its Regional Offices, the assignment of the yield or revenue loss is the subject of a separate arbitration against the insurance company and must be filed within one year of the determination – regardless of whether the RMA has completed the GFP determination.  The net product of this bureaucratic alphabet soup to is leave many farmers with no crop and no crop insurance indemnity.  

That is the very situation encountered by a three-generation family farming operation whom I had the pleasure of representing.  First, the insurance company, or AIP, assailed my clients with accusations that they failed to use good farming practices, pointing to four different criticisms of their farming operation without the benefit of an agricultural expert or an experienced producer of that crop.  The AIP assigned 100 percent of my clients’ devastating losses to these “poor farming practices” rather than the adverse weather conditions that were present throughout the crop year.  When we prevailed with the RMA on three of the four criticisms, the AIP declined to adjust its assessment of uninsured causes, and denying 100 percent of the claim of loss.  

At arbitration, my clients’ testimony was aided by that of agricultural experts and an array of documentation supporting our argument that the losses were due entirely to adverse weather, an insurable cause.  Despite the GFP determination, the arbitrator correctly concluded that the RMA’s criticism of a particular practice did not cause or contribute to the loss and awarded my clients 100 percent of the crop insurance indemnity to which they were rightfully entitled.

The takeaway from that case, and other GFP cases, is that the insured must move quickly to preserve every legal and administrative remedy.  And, despite what the AIP may suggest, even an adverse GFP determination does not keep you from recovering part, or even all, of your crop insurance indemnity.

The procedures governing crop insurance disputes are often complex and differ significantly from other, more traditional legal principals and procedures.  For a lawyer handling his or her first crop insurance case, the learning curve is steep, and the consequences for the client are often significant.  Give your claim the best chance of success by seeking a free initial consultation with attorney Wendell Hoskins II.

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