Acreage and Yield Reporting Go Digital
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By: Dan Looker
For Mike Shearer, who grows corn and soybeans in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, the chore of reporting planted acres and yields for crop insurance has gotten a lot easier.
He’s been testing a new digital system that’s an almost effortless way to get crucial information to his Rain and Hail crop insurance agent. That streamlined planting and harvest reporting was offered to all other Rain and Hail customers last year.
Computers in Shearer’s tractor and combine already modem his planting and yield data to the John Deere Operations Center. With a few simple steps he has authorized Deere to release that data electronically to Rain and Hail. The
Pennsylvania farmer now avoids paperwork in the busiest times of the year.
“They can just go to the computer and pull it right off the cloud. It works really good,” Shearer says of his reports to Rain and Hail.
That precision data is imported into the Rain and Hail Mapping System already used by farmers’ agents.
“The grower doesn’t have to worry about it and at that point, the agent doesn’t have to chase down the farmer to get the data,” says Dave Schuler, Executive Vice President of Field Operations for Rain and Hail.
Reporting yields as well as planted acres is getting easier. The digital reporting system that farmers like Mike Shearer are using will be enhanced with broadly available digital scale tickets next year.
Until now, crop insurers have used elevator receipts and grain bin measurements to document yield losses reported for claims.
“The complicating factor has been, how do I determine what comes off of each field,” Schuler says.
Thanks to a partnership with Bushel, the grain industry’s first software platform that allows elevators to send scale tickets to your smartphone or tablet, those same tickets can stream instantly to your agent’s software.
If you have crop losses, “it speeds the claim because the adjuster doesn’t have to enter the data,” Schuler says.
“For the grain that has not been delivered, we still have to go out and measure the bin—if there’s a claim,” he adds.
Signing up to have the Bushel platform send scale tickets to Rain and Hail is also easy, says Jake Joraanstad, CEO of Myriad Mobile, the Fargo, North Dakota, company that developed Bushel.
“They can do it themselves, right in the app,” Joraanstad says. All that’s needed is the account number, crop insurance policy number and last four digits of the farmer’s tax ID.
The Bushel app is a service offered by a growing number of grain elevators, co-ops and ethanol plants. It provides real-time scale tickets, contracts, pre-pays, cash bids, e-sign and contract management through a secure, cloud-based platform.
From his own farm background, Joraanstad knows that sending digital scale tickets to Rain and Hail agents is a big improvement from sorting through paper tickets and matching them to fields.
“At the end of the year, typically you’ve gotten all of your scale tickets in a shoebox,” he says.
Another time saver for harvest data comes from Deere. Yield monitor data sent to its operations center can also be used if the combine’s yield monitor is properly calibrated, says Schuler with Rain and Hail. Some new combines also self-calibrate, making this even more convenient for the grower.
Using precision planting data can save growers money as well as time, says Nevin Dourte of Ruhl Insurance in Manheim, Pennsylvania.
“The beauty of it is that it’s more accurate—to hundredths of an acre, so you’re paying for [coverage on] exactly what you planted,” says Dourte, who has worked with Shearer and other farmers testing several new digital reporting systems. The planter might say you’ve planted 9.2 acres when the map previously said 10 “so you’re paying for 9.2 acres,” he explains.
As with all things digital, putting the right information into computers is crucial, of course. If a farmer inputs a hybrid variety number into his tractor computer, he knows it’s corn. But if he doesn’t put “corn” into the computer, the Rain and Hail Mapping System won’t label that field as planted to corn, Dourte says.
After the reporting to Rain and Hail is set up, the process should be easy for the farmer, he says.
“On the farm end, that should be good from year to year—unless something changes,” he says. “I don’t think it’s that complicated. It’s a matter of making sure everything is set up properly.”
“It should be incredibly easy and seamless,” Dourte says.
It will depend on your individual FSA office, but the Rain and Hail maps might also help streamline reporting planted acres to FSA. When setting up digital planting reports it’s helpful if growers use the right field descriptions, with Farm Service Agency numbers, especially if a farm a grower is renting has been sold to a new owner, Dourte adds.
“There’s a huge, huge potential for efficiency,” Dourte says.
The privacy of all of this data is secured and protected, Rain and Hail’s Schuler says.
“We are using that data only for crop insurance reporting and we are held to privacy standards by the federal government,” he points out, since crop insurance is administered by USDA.
And farmers can opt out of this data sharing at any time from both Bushel and the Deere Operations Center.
“We’re trying to find ways to make it easy for the policy holder and the agent to do business with us,” he says. “Hopefully that helps them find value in doing business with us, and if they’re finding value, they’ll tell their neighbors as well.”