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Crop Insurance Questions in Canal/Tunnel Collapse
By: Jessica Groskopf & Cory Walters, UNL Extension - 08/14/2019

As repairs continue on the tunnel that collapsed on the Goshen/Gering-Fort Laramie Canal, unanswered questions remain about whether crop insurance will cover crop losses stemming from the loss of irrigation water.

Crop Insurance provides protection against "unavoidable, naturally occurring events." Due to the complexity of the Goshen/Gering-Fort Laramie situation, it is unknown if crop insurance will cover crop loss.

Three tunnels are used to deliver water from the Whalen Dam on the North Platte River to the Goshen/Gering-Fort Laramie Canal. The second tunnel, south of Fort Laramie, Wyo., collapsed on July 17. Water has been shut off at the Whalen Dam since the incident occurred in order to inspect and repair the tunnel. This has left 107,000 acres of cropland in Nebraska and Wyoming without irrigation water during a critical time in the growing season.

Several factors may have contributed to the tunnel collapse. According to a report by the National Weather Service in Cheyenne "precipitation has been upwards of 200%-300% above normal for the past water year (Oct. 1 2018 to present)." However, the tunnel in question was built in 1917 by the Bureau of Reclamation, which owns the structure. The Goshen Irrigation District and Gering-Fort Laramie Irrigation District were responsible for operating and maintaining the tunnel.

Crop insurance is a federal program administered by the USDA Risk Management Agency. All crop insurance policies, regardless of the crop insurance agent, are subject to the same provisions. Thus if it is determined that the tunnel collapse was not from an "unavoidable, naturally occurring event," all crop insurance policy holders on the Goshen/Gering-Fort Laramie Canal would not receive an indemnity payment for their crop loss.

Farmers in the affected area need to continue to manage their crop as if water will return to the canal and they will be covered by their crop insurance policy. Failure to do so may negate individual crop insurance coverage. Producers must receive written permission from the insurance company to replant, abandon, or destroy a crop.

This information is designed to support and help clarify existing crop insurance policy provisions and procedures. For more detailed information and options you may have, please consult a crop insurance agent.

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