Crop school teaches insurance adjusters to assess hail damage

Wednesday, June 13, 2012 | 8:01 p.m. CDT; updated 3:44 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 14, 2012
Crop insurance adjusters came to Columbia to learn about assessing hail damage. Eighty-five people attended the annual training, which was held at Bradford Research & Extension Center on June 12-13.

COLUMBIA — Gene Painter kneels and observes the sample of wheat before him, explaining the difference between damage done by hail and other perils. A clean cut in the stalk signals a rodent; a bent stalk is wind damage; but a broken stalk or missing berries are signs that hail is to blame.

Once determining that hail is the culprit, Painter, a claims supervisor with American Farm Bureau Insurance, refers to the calculations that are used to determine the stage of growth the plants were in when they were damaged. The earlier the damage occurred, the higher the expected loss. These tools serve as a guide to assessing hail claims.

“The way things were done in the old days, every adjuster had his own method and we had to get away from that," he said. "We need to base it on real facts.”

Painter is one of 18 plot leaders instructing 85 crop insurance adjusters at the National Crop Insurance Service Crop-Hail Wheat & Corn School.

The school was held Tuesday and Wednesday at MU’s Bradford Research & Extension Center.  Bradford has been home to the annual school for over 20 years.

“It’s an excellent place for the school," Lynnette Dillon, training and education specialist with the insurance service, said. "You can step right out of the classroom into the field.”

Wheat used in this year’s demonstrations was planted in the fall of 2011. Bradford staff and members of the National Crop Insurance Service state committee, which is made up of representatives from each member organization, gathered to pummel the wheat with artificial hail on June 4.

The “hail” was produced by feeding ice into a brush chipper that was then sprayed onto the sample area. This was done to simulate the typical eight to 14 day period between a storm and the time that an adjuster arrives to assess the damage.

In addition to wheat, participants used similar techniques to assess artificial hail damage on corn grown for the occasion in one of Bradford’s greenhouses. Slide rules and detailed charts and tables were used to determine the loss accrued.

Attendees hailed from Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Tennessee and Texas. They represented 12 of the 16 insurance companies that make up the membership of the insurance service.

Between 12 and 15 of these schools are typically held during the summer months throughout the country. According to Dillon, the main reason for these schools is the keep training consistent.

Some schools focus on crops prevalent in the area. A cotton school is held in Lubbock, Texas, and a soybean school is held in Ames, Iowa.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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