Well-Kept Records- Dual Purpose Forms
FARMING DECISIONS, INSURANCE CLAIMS, ORGANIC INSPECTION EASIER WITH WELL-KEPT RECORDS
By Harriet Behar
While recordkeeping is not among the top 10 best things about farming, keeping good records can provide significant benefits to farmers and ranchers. Having a historical perspective of the planting dates for each field, correlated with information on various crop yields, is invaluable in planning crop rotations from year to year. Tracking fertilizers and soil nutrient amendments and the crop responses to those inputs over time pinpoints which inputs offer the most bang for the buck. When you have your own records, you know how late you can plant a specific crop and still get acceptable yields. You also have the information you need to develop different crop rotations by soil type and location on the farm, and can choose when to harvest a crop, such as taking corn silage instead of letting the corn grow to maturity.
Organic certification requires good records so the organic inspector can verify that you are doing acceptable activities—those records represent a functioning organic system on your farm. Organic farming relies on good management rather than synthetic inputs.
Good records serve as an economic safety net if things do not go as planned. If a prohibited pesticide drifts to your field from a neighboring farm, utility crew, or aerial sprayer, your records are invaluable in obtaining a financial settlement from the operator who chemically trespassed on your farm. Your field records have your specific crop yields and sales records to prove the dollars received. Your yearly field histories illustrate the crop rotation and the organic crop sales you will lose for three years if the field becomes ineligible for organic certification due to their negligence.
Farmers who are in negotiation with insurance companies representing the entity that caused the drift have said those agents have a hard time arguing with the documented information in the organic records, and usually are surprised at the price difference between organic and non-organic commodity or specialty crops. Not only have those records been kept over time by the farmer, but they are “audited” and verified on an annual basis by a third party recognized by the U.S. government—an accredited organic certifier. Having all of these records, in a format that’s easy to review and copy, makes the negotiations go much smoother and can result in a more speedy and acceptable outcome for the farmer.
MOSES, with funding from the USDA Risk Management Agency, has put together a workbook containing a variety of crop recordkeeping forms. These forms include the essential information an organic inspector will need to see, as well as the information you need to provide when you make a claim on your crop insurance plan.
The workbook includes multiple copies of each form—fill out the forms this year, then if you like using them, you can photocopy the blank forms for subsequent years. If you prefer to work electronically, you can download the forms as Excel spreadsheets—they’re all online at: https://mosesorganic.org/publi...
“I really like it—the crop rotation plan sheet especially is very useful,” said Cullen Carns-Hilliker, the MOSA organic inspection manager, who reviewed the recordkeeping workbook. “It is easy to see how many years of a certain crop have been grown in each field, and even prompts farmers to remember to include their cover crops. MOSA offers many recordkeeping forms, but we do not provide field activity log templates, nor sales records, making this book a great option to point people towards what is necessary for a full recordkeeping system.” He added that both those new to organic certification and experienced organic farmers will find these forms valuable in closing up the holes they may have in their recordkeeping system.
Whole Farm Revenue Protection crop insurance relies heavily on the information on the Schedule F of your federal tax return. The recordkeeping workbook has templates for tracking that information as well, making your yearly tax filings much easier to do, whether you do them yourself or hire a tax preparer complete your federal taxes.
For individual commodity crop insurance—no matter if the crop’s organic, transitional, or conventional—you need to be able to prove to the insurance adjuster you have done your due diligence in growing the crop, even if it has been shredded by hail or dried up by drought. The five-year field activity log lets you track by field, bed, or section of field for up to five years on one page. This form tracks fertility, pest and disease management, crop and cover crop management from planting to harvest, and tillage activities. This provides a “snapshot” an adjuster can review, while also giving you information to plan and meet your farming goals quickly and efficiently. This document provides what both the crop insurance company needs to process a claim and the organic certifier needs to verify your compliance to the organic regulations.
When you are preparing for your first inspection or your annual organic inspection, the supplemental organic integrity document checklist helps you determine what documentation you need for your specific operation and tracks documentation you have completed for five years.
The storage record was developed for commodity crops, but could be easily modified for long-term storage of specialty crops. This record notes fields where crops were grown, and provides a running inventory to help with sales and future planning.
Whole Farm Revenue Protection will cover economic losses due to lower market prices seasonally or annually. You can submit the completed sales record form from the workbook to show your crop insurance agent your historic sales figures. You can also use this completed form for your annual organic inspection to show your record of sales into the organic marketplace.
Lastly, if you plan to apply for a farm operating loan in addition to crop insurance, there is a worksheet provided to track an individual crop’s expense and income over a five-year period. This can help with long-term enterprise planning, especially on diverse operations where choices are made each year regarding how many acres of each crop should be grown. This planning worksheet helps determine the net income per acre, which is useful when applying for crop insurance as well.
Having your documentation forms handy so you fill them in routinely will make them valuable assets for your farm. This new recordkeeping workbook gives you everything you need to keep track of your farming activities.
Harriet Behar has a certified organic farm in Wisconsin, and serves on the National Organic Standards Board.
This new resource from MOSES can help you track field information and more to make certification and crop insurance claims easier to manage.