Preparing for severe weather season on the farm

Whether you raise potatoes in the Central Sands or a beef herd in Green County near the Illinois border, severe weather poses a threat to your operation every summer. 

Claims Director, Abby Weiss, and Communications Specialist, Branden Borremans, joined Pam Jahnke, The Fabulous Farm Babe, on the Rural Mutual Roundtable to talk about preparing for severe weather season and best practices for filing a claim should your farm property sustain storm damage. 

Take measures before a storm strikes

No one can stop straight-line winds, golf ball-size hail, or a tornado from damaging your property. But there are things you can do to minimize potential damage and maximize the efficiency of filing a claim, should you ever have to. 

Button up loose ends

Prepare staff with clear instructions on emergency escape routes and individual responsibilities for livestock, machinery, and people. Make sure generators are maintained and functional and you have adequate fuel and propane supplies. Some other items to consider for your spring to-do list could include: 

  • Inspect and repair roofs: Make sure all materials are intact and replace any damaged shingles or panels. 
  • Trim trees and shrubs: Remove dead or weak branches that could break off during a storm and cause damage.  
  • Maintain gutters and downspouts: Make sure these are clear of debris to allow for proper drainage away from buildings. 
  • Reinforce livestock shelters: Double-check these are structurally sound and provide protection against high winds, heavy rain, and hail. 

Understand your coverages, then document 

Long before severe weather season starts, reach out to your Rural Mutual agent to ask questions about your policy. Clarify whether you have replacement cost or actual cash value coverage. Talk through different scenarios, like whether your farm machinery is covered if your barn collapses. Find out what’s covered and what isn’t. 

Once you know what’s covered, Weiss says it’s critically important to visually document your assets. 

“The last thing that you want to do when you have a traumatic event is sit down and think about every last little thing you have in a building,” Weiss said. “But if you have pictures, if you have video, it makes the (claims) process go so much better.” 

Use the right weather technology to stay ahead of the storm 

It has never been easier to access weather information. Anyone can download a weather app on their phone in a matter of seconds. 

But this comes at the expense of reduced accuracy and incomplete messaging, says Communications Specialist Branden Borremans, a former television broadcast meteorologist. He adds the primary drawbacks of weather apps are: 

  • Minimal detail beyond a sky icon, high/low temperature, and a rain/snow percentage. 
  • Precipitation percentages are left to interpretation. 
  • Weather app forecasts are generated by only one computer model lacking a human element. 

More than anyone, farmers need weather information that’s as accurate as possible. Borremans encourages farmers to rely on the National Weather Service for updated weather information. 

“The forecasts you get from your local NWS office are actually coming from real human beings who are analyzing several computer models and not just one,” Borremans said.  

Below are the five local NWS offices that serve Wisconsin: 

Listen to the Rural Mutual Roundtable for instructions on adding a shortcut to your phone, which gives you access to mobile-friendly NWS weather information for your local area. 

Best practices for filing a claim 

Let’s say your farm in Green County just got hit with nasty straight-line winds. You jump in your truck to assess the damage and immediately see tree branches impaled into the side of your machine shed. You continue driving your property and find even more damage. Your mind is swirling, and you don’t know whether to file a claim. What should you do? 

The answer is easy. If you’re debating whether to file a claim, file one. And don’t wait. 

“We like to see things as soon as possible, understanding there’s a lot going on around a farm,” Weiss said. “You might not notice damage right away, so as soon as you’re aware of any damage, let us know.” 

There are three easy ways to report a claim with Rural Mutual: 

  • Reach out to your local agent 
  • Report online 
  • Call 1-800-255-2150 (including after hours) 

Listen to the full Rural Mutual Roundtable with Abby Weiss and Branden Borremans below.