Crop Policy Coverage

After a devastating event such as a wildfire a vintner’s crop may be destroyed. Crop destruction is one of the most serious concerns for all those in the industry. When crops are damaged or destroyed by fire the recovery process may take years. The first thing to do is to check your crop insurance policy to determine coverage. The coverage of crop insurance policies may vary.

Crop Revenue Coverage

Crop guarantee policies are available in some cases. These policies protect you in case something occurs that damages your crops. In this case, wildfires may qualify you to file a claim if you have this type of protection. To qualify, your crop yield must be below the yield guarantee that is protected in your policy.

Crop revenue coverage, CRC, is one type of crop yield guarantee protection policy that is available. Adjusted gross revenue policies, AGR, and AGR-Lite are insurance policies that utilize your tax return to determine agricultural revenue. The amount of your coverage depends on the policy that you purchased.

It is also important to note that your policy typically has a deductible associated with it. Again, the deductible is based on the policy. Generally, you may pay more for a policy with a lower deductible in order to ensure better coverage.

Inventory Losses

Keeping an accurate crop inventory is extremely helpful when filing a crop loss claim. The insurance company will review the inventory that you have provided them originally in comparison with the inventory of damaged crops. This provides them with a good starting point to calculate losses.

There are a number of things you can do to assist the adjuster. Some of these steps can be taken to ensure that you receive the best and most precise claim settlement. After the fire you should inspect all the crops noting which ones sustained damage. A map is very helpful and can be used to show exact locations of fire-damaged vines.

Another option you may want to consider is having an aerial examination of your property completed. The aerial view provides very good evidence of the damage that you sustained. It is particularly useful when you have a large vineyard.

It is important to note that crops are covered under a crop policy; however, the vines themselves may not be covered. This could leave you with a major problem if the vines were damaged in the wildfires. If you have a business interruption endorsement or policy, it may useful at this time. If buildings were destroyed, they must be rebuilt and when vines need to be replanted, they take years to mature and provide grapes. These issues need to be addressed through your insurance company.

Smoke Taint and Vine Damage

Even if your vineyard did not suffer the immediate effects of the wildfires, it may have suffered from smoke damage. Smoke taint is a problem that faces many grape growers in areas near wildfires. Smoke from wildfires contains a substance called phenol that can penetrate the grapes. Once phenol enters the crops it forms a substance that is undesirable with an unpleasant aroma.

Unfortunately, smoke taint can’t be accurately determined until after production. The wine may release the aroma at any time during the production process or even after it has been bottled. It results in a wine that is unsalable. An entire crop may be destroyed in this way.

Vines may be damaged in varying degrees by fire. Some vines may have little to no damage while others may show immediate signs of harm. In some cases, vines are so badly burned that they will not come back. An expert may be necessary to inspect the vines and determine damage. The professional looks inside the vine to see whether damage is permanent. If so, the grower is looking at a long-term loss because the vines will need to be replanted. It may take years for new vines to produce grapes.

Your insurance policy may provide coverage for these damages if you purchased adequate policy riders. Providing evidence to support a claim can be challenging in these instances. You might need to provide expert analysis in order to prove the extent of your damages.

When to File a Claim

It is important to file crop claims as soon as possible after the damage occurred. In general, companies require claims be filed within 72 hours. Your policy may indicate a specific time-frame which must be followed in order to maintain your rights.

Do not take any actions that will destroy the evidence to support your insurance claim. This means that you cannot harvest, plow or remove the vines. You must stop work completely until the insurance adjuster arrives.

If you need to do some work immediately to mitigate damages, you must alert your insurance company first. The company will usually try to send an adjuster on an emergency basis. If you must do something before the adjuster arrives, you should obtain written permission from the provider.

Claim Resolution

Crop insurance claims can be difficult and complex. In some cases, the insurance company will offer a settlement that is less than what you need to cover your damages. There are some steps you can take if this occurs. You may file a dispute with your insurance provider. If your insurance provider denies your claim or gives you an unfair settlement you can request a review.

If you follow the guidelines of your policy and feel that the company did not fulfill their contractual obligations, you may be able to take legal action. A claim may be filed against an insurance company if they breach the contract. Contact one of our attorneys to learn more about how to resolve difficult insurance policy disputes.

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