Crop Insurance is a unique and complicated product. There are not many attorneys in the United States who understand the statutes, rules and regulations that govern its use. Mr. Burt has the background, experience, knowledge and contacts within the industry, all of which can be brought to bear to protect the interests of growers when a crop insurance dispute arises. He can represent growers in all jurisdictions, and, if necessary, can associate local counsel and continue to represent the grower.
Mr. Burt’s first hands-on experience with crop insurance was at the age of fourteen when he attended a crop insurance adjusters training session and learned how to adjust tobacco losses. During the summers, he worked in his father’s business, which was contracting with crop insurance companies and reinsuring their crop insurance risks with various foreign and domestic reinsurance companies. He spent one entire summer working in North Carolina issuing crop insurance policies, collecting premiums, paying losses, and accompanying loss adjusters to various claims.
After he graduated from law school, Mr. Burt represented several insurance and reinsurance entities in various legal matters. He was subsequently hired by those entities and ultimately became their Executive Vice President, Treasurer and General Counsel. He became the operational head of all of their crop insurance operations, which included the following:
- American Hail Insurance Company, which wrote only multiple peril crop insurance and crop hail insurance throughout the United States. American Hail Insurance Company was one of the first Reinsured Companies for the Federal Crop Insurance program.
- American Hail Management, Inc., a managing general agency, which provided all of the underwriting, accounting, policy issuance, agency appointment and training, claim adjustment and payment, and adjuster training services to American Hail Insurance Company and other insurance companies which appointed American Hail Management to produce crop insurance business on their behalf. American Hail Management had offices throughout the United States.
- Hail Adjustment Services, Inc., which provided crop insurance claim adjustment services for insurance companies, primarily in the southeastern United States.
- Hail Information Services, Inc., which was a crop insurance statistical organization, establishing premium rates and policy forms for member insurance companies.
- Hail Reinsurance Management, Inc., which managed, on behalf of various insurance companies, a significant book of crop insurance business produced by independent managing general agencies throughout the United States.
During his time in private industry, Mr. Burt came into contact with individuals from various crop insurance entities and the Risk Management Agency (RMA), which agency manages the Federal Crop Insurance program. These contacts continue to be important.
Mr. Burt returned to the private practice of law in 1992, and almost immediately began representing growers who had crop insurance claims.
He has represented growers in mediations, arbitrations, litigation in Federal Courts, National Appeal Division hearings, Equal Access to Justice hearings and before the Farm Service Agency. He has represented growers in seeking Final Agency Determinations (FADs) related to policy interpretations.
Mr. Burt is a mediator in both State and Federal courts, and was certified by the Supreme Court of Florida as a mediator. He was instrumental in the establishment of the Florida Agriculture Mediation Service and served as its first mediator.
There are two primary types of crop insurance:
The first, and by far the largest, is Multiple Peril Crop Insurance, or MPCI. The second is called, simply, crop-hail insurance.
A crop hail insurance policy is a named peril policy that covers physical damage to crops due to hail (although some policies cover additional perils such as fire). These policies are governed by state laws and regulated by state insurance departments. They can be purchased at any time during the growing season.
MPCI policies also cover damage due to hail, but also cover damage due to all types of natural causes, such as drought, excessive moisture, cold and disease. The policies are governed by the Federal government through the Federal Crop Insurance Act. These policies (generally) must be purchased before the growing season. Certain private companies are authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency (RMA) to write MPCI policies. These companies are called Approved Insurance Providers (AIP). The AIPs are reinsured by the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC). RMA manages the MPCI business on behalf of FCIC. RMA develops the policy language, sets the premium rates, interprets the policies, issues the regulations, and enforces the terms on policy and the reinsurance agreements with the AIPs.
Crop insurance litigation involving crop-hail insurance generally must be brought in state courts. MPCI disputes, however, must be arbitrated (although the parties can agree to mediate the dispute first). The dispute usually involves only the AIP, but if there is a large claim (over $500,000), RMA has the right to step in and make all decisions.
Because most crop insurance disputes are resolved in mediation or arbitration, it is not necessary for the attorney to be licensed in the state where the dispute arises or the grower is located. It is only when the dispute goes to court that state licensure becomes an issue, and even then, Mr. Burt can become licensed before a particular court on a temporary, one-time basis, or can associate with local counsel.
For more information concerning crop insurance, the following links are provided:
Mr. Burt also encourages you to call him at 386-252-4499.