Insuring Precision Farming Technologies

As farmers are getting comfortable with precision farming technologies, it’s finding a suitable purpose in the crop insurance arena.

What was once a tool for larger farms, precision farming technologies are becoming utilized by field managers of all operations, big and small. These relatively recent tools are arming growers with beneficial data for their production.

It has also been helpful for the crop insurance industry. Data collected from the precision farming technologies create various amounts of information that can easily be submitted to an insurance provider.

Here are a few questions in understanding precision farming technologies and their relationship with crop insurance:

Determined acres

For planted acreage records from automated planter monitoring systems to be acceptable as determined acres, the following must be provided:

  • Insured’s name, unit number, legal description of acreage, and a printout from the system with the following information: crop name, acres planted, and electronically produced maps of planted acreage and acreage summary records. These records must show required discernible breaks between units or practices.
  • If the insured planted overlapping rows within the planted acreage and the system did not adjust for overlapping rows, acreage must be determined.
  • To establish optional units on center pivots between irrigated and non-irrigated corners without discernible breaks in the planting pattern the insured can provide records showing the variable rate planting populations, document the planter monitoring system used, provide the acres planted and practice for each optional unit, provide production records by optional unit and practice, and meet the three components noted above that allow utilization of these new procedures.

Harvested production

For production records, the following must be provided in conjunction with planter monitoring data as stated already:

  • Insured’s name, unit number, FSA farm/tract/field ID number, legal description of acreage, and a printout, by unit, of the following precision farming technology information: crop name, acres harvested, date harvested, total production (unadjusted for moisture), average moisture content, and yield maps and acreage/production summary records. These records from the system must show separate production records were maintained by unit and/or practice. If unharvested acreage exists, a visual inspection is required.
  • The annual calibration report showing the insured calibrated the yield monitoring system in accordance with the owner’s manual specifications. The report must include all calibrations and adjustments performed, by crop, for the crop year, including the date each calibration/adjustment was performed and the difference from the previous setting. The annual calibration report must be provided to the company. The insured must provide documentation showing the weighed average sensor calibrations for the crop and crop year, and these must not exceed 3 percent when compared to the actual weighed production harvested from the acreage used to calibrate the sensor. If initial differences exceed 3 percent, additional calibration samples must have been taken until the results were within the 3 percent tolerance. If the 3 percent tolerance cannot be met, the insured may utilize the precision farming system post-harvest calibration of yield maps created by the system. The insured must provide documentation of the actual production based on acceptable weight records used to post-calibrate the system and yield maps.

What is precision farming technology?

It comes in many shapes and sizes, and it is broken down in several forms. The Risk Management Agency (RMA) defines a precision farming system as having the following components:

  1. GPS technology integrated with planter monitors, combine monitors, and yield mapping software. Note: Producer must have all three to utilize these procedures.
  2. Planting and harvesting summary reporting
  3. Calibrations performed per manufacturer’s requirements

Most smartphones, tablets as well as tractors with GPS fit the criteria. Other technologies include precision maps, variable rate applications and guidance. Another trending platform in the ag industry is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) or commonly referred to drones. This technology helps to assess farmland more accurately.

What does it have to do with crop insurance?

Plenty. As a farmer, you have to make sure via an annual report to meet the guidelines acreage planted and yield produced, etc., of their policies. With precision farming technology, farmers are able to utilize that data to provide more — wait for it — precise information (acreage, crops, etc.) which helps in identifying better predictors of performance and risk (weather, soil, production, etc). Having that information readily available (in a cloud or folder) will become a valuable time-saver in critical times, plus allows the insurer to properly price the risk.

How can I use it when claiming?

Although you refer to your insurance provider, the RMA has provided the terms in the Loss Adjustment Manual that allows the use of data from precision farming technology systems as a means to verify acreage and production when determining losses.