A drought specialist with the national weather service recently compared the drought and heat wave in the Midwest with the catastrophic dry period of 1988 that at the time cost agriculture $78 billion. USDA Chief Economist Joe Glauber recently said that “49 percent of the corn crop, 50 percent of the soybean crop, and 45 percent of the hay crop are all in areas that are experiencing drought,” adding that a lot of that area is actually in the “severe drought” category.

“The farmers who suffer crop losses from this drought, or any other covered peril, can rest assured that crop insurance indemnities will be paid timely,” said Tom Zacharias, president of National Crop Insurance Services. The drought, which targeted the southern plains last year, appears to have the Midwest in its sights.

According to the July 10 U.S. Drought Monitor, all of the top ten corn-producing states are experiencing various stages of drought, with the situation worsening by the week. The entire state of Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Indiana, South Dakota, Kansas, Ohio and Missouri are in various stages of drought, as is roughly half of both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Nationally, nearly 80 percent of the contiguous U.S. is experiencing some level of drought, with nearly 40 percent of that considered severe to exceptional.

Zacharias instructed producers who think they have a loss on an insured crop to take the following steps:

1. Notify their crop insurance agent within 72 hours of the initial discovery of damage;

2. Continue to care for the crop and protect it against further damage if possible and,

3. Obtain consent from the insurance company prior to destroying any of the insured crop.

“There are other requirements that insureds need to follow that can be found in their specific policy,” said Zacharias. “But these three are key for right now.” Zacharias assured America’s farmers and ranchers that while it is far too early to predict loss estimates, the insurance industry is ready for any claims that are filed.

“2011 was a busy year for the insurance industry when we paid out more than $10.8 billion in indemnities,” said Zacharias. “The insurance companies handled those losses quickly and accurately and they will do the same this year.”

Crop insurance, the most popular risk management tool for farmers, is the key to their financial stability, enabling them to supply food and fiber to our country despite severe weather and other challenges that impact their business. Congress is currently writing the 2012 Farm Bill and farmers and ranchers from each corner of the country and nearly every major commodity group testified about what that Farm Bill needed to do. There was one main theme that threaded through their testimony: “Do no harm to crop insurance.”