For farmers, daily life can bring more disasters than most people could handle in a year. Besides surprise weather events and uncontrollable crop diseases wreaking havoc on entire farms, agriculture is one of the most hazardous industries in the United States, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
With the odds stacked against them, farmers continue to prevail thanks to critical risk management skills. Many of these skills are learned the hard way. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to farming. Since every farm is different, it’s up to the farmers themselves to protect their crops, their employees, their customers, and even their own household from every risk associated with the industry.
We can’t promise that you won’t have to navigate hardships as a farmer, but with the right tools, you can work through even the worst situations toward the best outcomes. The number of different risks in farming feels endless, but here are five major risks and ways to manage them before or after they happen:
Threatening food production numbers and the health and safety of all who consume the harvest, crop disease can be one of the most detrimental risks a farmer faces. With changing climates and new viruses and bacteria popping up regularly, fighting crop disease is an uphill battle. Crop losses affect 20%–40% of overall global agricultural productivity, making this a risk that should be regularly addressed, mitigated, and prevented.
Many farmers use pesticides or sprays to protect against different pests and diseases that can harm crop production, but those aren’t the only ways to get ahead of crop disease. In fact, many consumers now prefer pesticide-free produce, forcing farmers to get even more creative.
Knowledge is the most important combatant in this situation. Figure out which diseases your crops are prone to and prepare according to those findings. Planting disease-resistant or disease-tolerant crops in future years, ensuring optimal harvesting timelines, monitoring plant health, disinfecting equipment regularly, and rotating crops are all effective ways to manage the risk of crop disease.
On a global scale, we are seeing all-time records for heat advisories, dealing with some of the most extreme climate conditions humans have ever experienced, and so much more. For farmers who already have to deal with harsh storms and temperature snaps, weather-related risks are rapidly increasing. To make things even more complicated, regional implications add another layer of complexity to weather monitoring and risk management. Tornados in Kansas require a much different approach than fires in California.
Understanding your local climate and weather patterns is a critical first step in mitigating weather-related risks, but more than likely, more work will be required to fully protect your crop production and farm health. When possible, opt for seed varieties that are designed to survive certain weather conditions like cold weather or drought.
Beyond that, monitor weather alerts, build a plan for all possible catastrophes, and don’t be afraid to get creative. You won’t be the first farmer to put a blanket over your crops or build a net to protect them from hail. If all else fails, this is where farming insurance comes in. Losing an entire harvest can be devastating, but with a reliable insurance policy, it’s usually survivable.
From our experience working with farmers, most were taught how to plant seeds, tend to crops, and run a harvest at the end of growing season. Many were not taught about the business side of farming, but it’s just as important to the health of your farm as having the right micronutrients in your soil. Making business relationships, managing the sourcing of supplies, and selling your harvest are all part of a successful farm.
It can be hard to step away from the farm for long, but squeezing in some business classes, attending networking events, and brushing up on your financial acumen are all great ways to turn your farm into a sophisticated, functional business operation. Keep in mind, if you aren’t great at crunching numbers or making sales, you can always find a business partner or hire an employee to absorb some of the business-related tasks.
Businesses in every industry face legal risks the second they open their doors. Everything from logo trademarks to bad business deals can bring lawsuits to your barn doors. Legal work is a very detailed and niche profession, but even without having attended law school, you can manage mitigating legal risks as a business owner.
Having the right insurance for your farm needs and working with licensed attorneys can reduce the threat of legal implications before they happen and provide protection after the fact, too. With good business practices and an integrity-filled approach, the hope is that you never have to rely on lawyers or insurance to resolve an issue. But if an issue ever gets to a point where you need either of those things, you’ll be incredibly glad to have them.
Farms are so much more than crops and cows. Whether it’s customers that can come pick their own fruit or an employee that helps you during the busy season, farmers come face-to-face with many people-related risks. Injuries from operating heavy machinery, falling off a ladder, or picking up heavy containers are just a few of the ways people can be put in harm’s way on a farm.
When it comes to injuries, prevention is the best practice. Having strict safety standards in place on your farm should be a top priority. Keep customers in places where they won’t come into contact with heavy machinery or other hazards, train your employees on safety regulations, and stay on top of any maintenance needed for your tools, machines, or crops. Keeping people safe is of the utmost importance!
At General Insurance Services, we work with farmers all over Indiana and surrounding areas to keep their farms safe, keep their people safe, and keep them safe, too. We’re here when things go wrong, but we’re even more committed to helping things go right in the first place. As a farmer, you’ll wear many hats for the rest of your career, but, in the interest of safety, the “risk management hat” should be up there right next to your farmer’s hat.
Matt Garrett has lived in LaPorte all of his life and has strong roots in the community. After graduating from LaPorte High School, he pursued higher education at Purdue University. Currently, Matt lives in LaPorte with his wife, Kori, whom he has been married to for 25 years. They are proud parents of two sons, Wade and Gavin. With 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Matt has held several roles and specializes in delivering top-notch commercial and agricultural insurance solutions. When he’s not working, Matt enjoys spending time with his family and exploring the great outdoors.