The Farm/Agribusiness (Farm/Ag) umbrella covers a broad range of industry sectors and operations, making it both an exciting and challenging industry to insure. Having the knowledge and right partnership, markets, and products to address and respond to the various and unique insurance needs of this industry are instrumental in helping agencies grow their farm business.

Three RPS Farm/Ag experts — Senior Agricultural Underwriter Kim Mayer, Farm/Ag Account Manager Kaylee Goodrick and Central Region Underwriter/Broker Brent Ray — give us the lowdown on what it takes to expand your agency's footprint in Farm/Ag.

A Primer on Industry Segments within Farm/Ag

First things first — what does Farm/Ag encompass?

The many industry niches within the Farm/Ag include field crop and grain, dairy, beef/cattle ranches, equine, hobby, estate farms, vineyards, wineries, custom farming and more. Within the equine segment alone, exposures include boarding, breeding, training, riding instructions, shows/events, clinics, day camps, riding clubs and others.

The commercial agriculture segment includes large co-ops with grain storage facilities, produce processing and packaging plants, food and beverage distributors, warehousing facilities for food storage, canning operators and others.

Talk the Farm/Ag Talk, Walk the Farm/Ag Walk

The Farm/Ag industry is tightly knit and one that insurance agents can't simply target without truly understanding the industry.

"You have to understand their exposures, talk their talk and gain their confidence," explains Mayer. "Farmers are loyal to their agents and need a good reason to shop their insurance."

She also notes the particularly close-knit aspect of the equine world and the support these business owners provide to businesses run by professionals whom they know and trust.

"Once you establish your name in the equine industry, business owners will spread the word among their colleagues."

Mayer helps insurance agents with their equine accounts, having grown up on a hobby farm and around horses herself.

"I help agents become confident in equine. I speak to them about the various operations that exist. For instance, I'll go over the differences between training and instruction of a horse and what that means from an insurance exposure."

Ray also underscores the need for insurance agents to know the industry and to have the support of a wholesale broker who can help.

"Make sure before you walk into a prospect's office, you understand his or her risk and ask the right questions," he emphasizes.

Ray suggests that agents reach out to RPS for help preparing to answer questions and discuss a risk and marketing strategy before meeting with a potential client.

"No farm is the same, so it's important to know what you're looking at to structure the appropriate coverage," says Ray. 

Market Access and Relationships Are Critical

Unlike other commercial businesses, the Farm/Ag industry has unique insurance needs that traditional solutions don't properly address. Therefore, it's important to establish a relationship with a wholesale broker with strong relationships in both the admitted and non-admitted markets.

"Agents may know enough about the Farm/Ag industry to write some business, but they don't have the volume to obtain a contract with carrier(s) that specialize in the industry. RPS can provide the markets and help get accounts placed," says Ray. "As agents build their reputation in the Farm/Ag industry and write more accounts, they will eventually be able to get a contract with a carrier or two."

Options for Farm/Ag Insurance Solutions

Because of the various operations that make up the Farm/Ag industry and its complex exposures, agents who are successful in growing their books of business in the sector not only need market access, but alternative insurance solutions. For example, not all risks will fit in the admitted market and will require an Excess & Surplus (E&S) solution.

"We have multiple carriers with which we work to help find a solution for our agents and their insureds," says Mayer. "We have admitted markets to write package policies to cover an owner's house, outbuildings and farm personal property as well as the liability. We also work with non-admitted carriers to provide coverage for vacant, secondary and seasonal farms, or for liability only. In addition, in today's tight Excess Liability market where capacity has been reduced, we can assist agents with supplemental limits. We also have options for farms where coverage has lapsed."

Obtaining an insurance solution in high-hazard areas is quite challenging as a result of devastating losses over the last several years. For example, in California where wildfires are prevalent, insureds in the Farm/Ag industry have a tough time obtaining Property coverage, particularly for their dwelling.

"In these cases, we can provide coverage for farm-related exposures while covering the dwelling under the California Fair Plan," says Goodrick. "We can go to our markets and write the various farm-related coverages with different carriers if need be."

For hazard-prone risks, Goodrick also explains how RPS will help agents pre-qualify a risk.

"We'll provide agents with some indication on what we can do, so they are not spending their time completing multiple applications at the outset. As long as we have a description of the operation, the location and loss history, we can see which of our markets are available to step in.

"Additionally, if one of our RPS offices is unable to write a specific risk, our underwriters/brokers will reach out to other colleagues who may have a solution," she continues. "Having multiple options and resources at an agent's disposal is key helping to get accounts written."

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