Examine your business risks and insure what you can't control. That's how custom harvesters can reduce those risks — and their insurance costs, says an insurance agent who regularly works with custom operators.

“There are certain things that every custom harvester can do to help reduce his risks and make himself more marketable, so to speak, to insurance companies,” says David Anderson, director of agriculture insurance with Vincent, Urban, Walker & Associates, Inc., Green Bay, WI.

Employees are a custom harvester's biggest risk, he says. That's why it's important to train them well and to communicate what they are expected to do.

An employee handbook helps. Anderson suggests that harvesters go over their handbooks with workers. He also recommends having employees sign statements verifying that they've read the material. Anderson's company will help harvesters write handbooks, and he encourages employee involvement.

“In a lot of cases we've found that the owner of a company might understand what his company does, but his employees have developed their own ways of doing things that are very good and very efficient,” he says. “By getting those employees involved with writing those procedures up, it invests them in the process.”

Regularly checking employees' driving records, and telling them so, also keeps rates down. This, Anderson says, may help them operate more carefully. “And if they're driving safer, your rates will stay lower.”

Safety is always an issue, which is why harvesters shouldn't “push the envelope” with workers.

“If you've got a situation where you think ‘if we push another three hours we can be done with this field,’ and you've already been out there for 10 or 12 hours, it's probably not a good idea. That's when accidents happen — when people get tired, it gets late in the day and equipment is hot.”

With fewer injuries there are fewer workers' compensation claims, which keeps rates down for everyone.

Harvesters should also make sure their insurance companies allow them to suspend coverage on trucks not used in the off-season. This can be a big cost-saver, he says.

Anderson's final tip: Your operation will be more insurable if you keep it looking good.

“Having your equipment clean, your stuff parked neatly and your shops in good order — makes it easier for an insurance agent to talk to an insurance company because it shows pride of ownership,” he says. “Anything you can do to make that operation look as good as it possibly can is only going to work in your favor.”