Local News

Uninsured N.C. Tobacco Farmers Worry About Potential Hail Storms

Posted April 24, 2001 2:50 a.m. EDT

— Tobacco farmers are making their way to the fields to get this year's crop in the ground, but this year, there is another hurdle for the gold leaf.

Gerald Coggin has one more worry to deal with this season. His insurance company will not sell hail insurance to him or any other tobacco farmer in North Carolina this year.

"It's going to affect us later on if we have problems," Coggin says. "If we don't have any hail insurance and our crop gets destroyed, that's just a year's worth of work gone down the drain."

So far, the Hartford Insurance Company based in Nebraska is the only insurance company to offer hail insurance in the state. Farmers are not complaining that the insurance is not available. They are concerned about the timing.

Tobacco farmers typically buy at least two types of insurance: standard and hail coverage. Insurance companies like to bundle both, but the deadline for standard, known as multi-peril coverage, was six weeks ago. Farmers say it is too late now to get hail insurance alone.

The Hartford Insurance Company says farmers who desire insurance protection limits higher than those provided through their multi-peril insurance should be able to obtain crop hail insurance from other insurance companies.

Independent agent Carl Stokes says it is not that simple.

"We just didn't have any idea this was coming. Had we known, we could have probably planned a little bit better," he says. "Certainly, we could have shopped some more markets for the customers."

Tobacco farmers are already juggling government regulations and pressure from cigarette makers. Some tobacco growers are contacting their congressmen for help.