Crop insurance is an important business decision for any farmer or rancher, but a key to buying the best policy for a specific operation may be the agent.

“It’s important to work with the right person, someone you can trust,” says Rachel Myers, director of insurance services for Great Plains Ag Credit in Amarillo, Texas.

She discussed factors farmers and ranchers should consider when buying crop insurance during the Beef Financial Management Conference at Amarillo. The personal relationship between a farm or ranch operator and an insurance agent is critical, she says.

“You need an agent you can trust — and one who understands you and your business. Ask if the agent is in it for you, and if he or she can offer the products you need.”

Crop insurance should be an integral part of a rancher’s risk management strategy, Myers says. A lot of companies and a lot of products are available, but producers should look for companies with the expertise needed for a specific enterprise.

“The company should understand the products and the enterprise a producer is protecting,” Myers says. “And you need an agent who understands your business and the amount of risk you can take on.”

She says 2011 taught farmers, ranchers and crop insurance agents some lessons.

“No one was prepared for 2011. Typically, hail is the most likely peril for irrigated corn.” But, that was not the case this year. Corn growers found that unrelenting heat, persistent drought and high winds limited how effective irrigation systems could be.

“As agents, we got a lot smarter about our products’ flexibility in permitting producers to move water from one crop to another,” she says.

She also noted that livestock producers should insure pasture and feedlot operations.

“You need to look every year to make certain the policy meets your needs. In 2011, for instance, commodity prices have been high — crops and livestock are valuable, and you may need to consider upgrading coverage.”

Farmers and ranchers, along with their agents, should evaluate 2011 coverage, look at 2012 crop plans and develop new strategies to minimize risks, Myers says.