Private Insurers Offer Up Crop Insurance


Techies in California have launched an insurance service for farmers seeking insulation against the largest source of crop loss — bad weather.

It’s called WeatherBill, and the company’s deep-pocketed investors are betting that they’ve caught lightning in a bottle.

The San Francisco company, which already sells insurance against nasty weather to clients such as the U.S. Open tennis tournament, is in the midst of shifting 80 percent of its focus to agriculture.

“Clearly we think there’s a big market for this,” said Greg Smirin, vice president of marketing and product for WeatherBill.

On its face, the sales pitch to farmers is simple: Insure against bad weather during key times of year such as the planting season — a protection that goes beyond what is available through federally subsidized crop insurance.

“I think farmers will be interested in this product, but I think they’ll be hesitant as well,” said Ray Massey, a crop insurance expert with the University of Missouri in Columbia. “There’s going to be an issue of trust.”

But Massey added that in a boom year like this, farmers might be willing to roll the dice on added protection against a temperamental Mother Nature.

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