What to expect from a crop insurance agent
Why is a crop insurance agent important?
Your crop insurance agent is the link between you and the biggest single part of the federal safety net for agriculture.
Crop insurance is available only from private insurance agents. All agents are licensed by the state, must receive federally mandated training, and pass a competency exam.
What should I look for?
Given that the price for all crop insurance policies are set by USDA’s Risk Management Agency, how do you decide on an agent? What matters is the quality of service and how well the agent meets your needs.
Here’s how most farmers would describe a good agent.
• He/she has personal integrity. For starters, the agent should be honest and ethical. You need to know that your production records and other personal information will be kept confidential;
• He/she understands how crop insurance works. Agents must have a thorough working knowledge of all the different types of policies that are available in your area. Beyond that, they need an understanding of the big picture, including their role and the roles of others who affect your decisions. The agribusiness environment is complex, so they need to understand marketing and its interaction with crop insurance products;
• He/she communicates well. A good agent is able to clearly explain what policies are available and the protection they offer. The ability to communicate effectively with others — both orally and in writing — is critical. People who communicate well are typically excellent problems solvers because they listen and can address sensitive issues;
• He/she is a team player. Today’s farmers need a team of advisors, including lenders, insurance agents, lawyers, accountants, brokers, and other specialists.Successful agents realize that they are a part of your team. At your direction, they should be able to explain how crop insurance will work to your lender or any other team members. Your lender may be especially interested since crop insurance can sometimes help insure their portfolios;
• He/she stays current. The proliferation of crop insurance products and the changing nature of the Federal program represent major challenges for an agent. To provide the quality of service you need, the agent must be committed to an ongoing education program; and
• He/she provides guidance. A good agent helps find the best product-to-farming operation fit to meet your risk management goals.
Even more valuable than answering technical questions about crop insurance products is the ability of an agent to explain how crop insurance products support your marketing plans:
• He/she sends reminders. Throughout the year, you must meet critical deadlines to adhere to the terms of your insurance contract. A good agent will help you meet these deadlines and policy requirements by sending timely reminders;
• He/she stays available. Good agents know that convenience is important and that you are often strapped for time at critical points during the year. As a result, they will make themselves available when and where you need help; and
• He/she is in for the long haul. Finally, a crop insurance agent should be interested in building and maintaining a long-term client relationship. So look for someone who maintains lasting relationships with clients.