Would avian flu insurance work? (Editorial)

(Aug. 11, 2015) Avian flu insurance. Good idea?
Sounds as if it might be.
Should the flu hit Delmarva, it could be catastrophic, and you can buy insurance against a lot of other catastrophies.
Two such insurance proposals are out there — one, underwritten by Lloyds of London and available from a Delaware insurance agent, and the other, a federal program offered by the USDA, which is under study by a special USDA committee.
The problem, in an avian flu policy seems to be “How do you cover all the bases?”
In flood insurance, for example, if you have water damage from the flood, your policy would be in order. In an avian flu policy, if the flu never hits your flock, and although you would suffer the consequences of it being “nearby,” your neighbor perhaps, you could be ineligible for coverage.
Gary Downes of Milford is offering the first avian flu coverage of its kind for this area. It carries a minimum premium of $1,500 and coverage ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 per location.
The policy specfies application to four strains of the flu — H5N 1, 2,7 and 9.
Capacity is limited and the coverage is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Downes sought an assessment of the coverage and Bill Satterfield, executive director of Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., summoned a meeting of the DPI Grower Committee to discuss the coverage with Downes. Three possible “flaws” emerged from that conversation.
• The Lloyds of London policy specifies an invasion by four strains of the virus — Satterfield said it was his understanding another strain has been identified in the Midwest and could make its way here.
• The policy offered by Downes makes it very clear.
Coverage applies only to flocks yhat have been infected and depopulated. DPI’s concern: What about growers in the so-called “control zone?” That’s an area 10 kilometers around an affected flock where growers could complete the grow-out of their present birds but could not receive a new shipment until an all-clear has been sounded.
• Finally, organic growers might not qualify if their birds are not confined.
Downes reports that he has submitted the DPI concerns and suggestions for expanding and clarifying the coverage and reports they are under study.
What’s his expectation?
“I can’t comment on that,” he replied. “It’s out of my hands.”
Meanwhile, the possibility of the USDA adding avian flu coverage to its coverage of other perils throughout all of ag production reportedly remains under study by a special committee in the nation’s capital.
That’s according to Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware who tacked an amendment on the 2014 Farm Bill requesting such a study.
He hopes it can be completed by fall when the threat of avian flu is expected to emerge again with the wildfowl migration.
Whether private insurance or the USDA can come up with policies to meet and overcome the challenges that avian flu presents and then whether the growers can afford it is yet to be seen.
But there is no question the threat of the flu is worthy of the attention it is getting. Growers should be protected by all the armor they can get — and afford.