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Farmers Urged to Check Insurance After Recent Farm Fires
2010-09-02

A number of Northumberland farmers have seen their livelihood go up in smoke as they are left to count the cost of what can only be described as mindless acts of vandalism. Andew Jamieson of rural specialists George F. White offers some advice on the steps farmers should take in regard to making sure they have all the information required to process any insurance claims.

Andew Jamieson

Andew Jamieson

Fires have occurred at a number of noted Northumberland farms in the past week with widespread damage and disruption caused. The fires have broken out after dark and have now spread to a wider area having initially been confined to in and around the Morpeth area, on Wednesday night another farm was attacked near Belford. This has left the entire rural community on high alert in an attempt to prevent any further damage being caused.

“For all farmers in the region it is essential that insurance policies are checked to ensure that all items are covered adequately. If you have recently purchased machinery or equipment make sure it is on the policy and please check the values of all items in the policy to ensure they are accurate,” advises Andrew.

“It is also pertinent to ensure that an accurate record of all crops (including straw) in store is kept. When fire strikes very little evidence is left to prove what commodity value has been destroyed. If you have a spare minute it may be useful to take a digital photograph of straw stacks etc to provide a visual record of the quantity of crop in store.

Farmers who find they are facing an insurance claim should take care not to act in haste and make sure they have clearly given thought to the true cost of getting the crops to the farm and to replace damaged sheds and machinery.

Whilst the commodity value of straw may seem good at £90-110/tonne the true value is getting that crop onto the farm and into the stack. Straw which costs £60/ac in the swath will require significant further input to get it onto the farm, baling (£5.50/round bale), bale handling and stacking (£30-35 hour). Other considerations include the availability of replacement straw in the locality and associated haulage costs. If the sheds have been destroyed then until replacements can be built purchases will need to be made on an “as and when” required basis. Care will need to be taken to ensure any uplift in cost due to this ad-hoc purchasing is covered. If the straw was stored inside then the value added by inside storage needs to be considered. Inside storage allows quality to be maintained throughout the winter and the straw to be marketed at the peak of it value over a longer period, the associated uplift in value needs to be properly assessed.

The replacement cost of rebuilding sheds will need to include costs associated with the removal and disposal of the damaged shed (including concrete etc) and replacement with a new like for like shed. This can be a significant cost especially if specialist removal/disposal of asbestos sheeting is involved. The value of the farmers labour and skill will need to be factored into any calculation to ensure they are adequately compensated for their efforts.”

George F. White has offices in Alnwick and Tyne Valley in Northumberland, Wolsingham and Barnard Castle in County Durham, Bedale in North Yorkshire, Shiptonthorpe near York and Park Lane in London www.georgefwhite.co.uk.

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