OMAHA, Neb. -- Tim Gubbels, who operates a small grain elevator in Laurel, Neb., is worried about getting insurance.
"I've been hearing that our premiums are going to double," said Gubbels, who also is president of the Nebraska Grain and Feed Association.
Grain elevators, fertilizer dealers, feed mills and refined fuel dealers all report having trouble obtaining insurance -- or at least affordable insurance -- as financially troubled insurers hike premiums or pull out of the agriculture market.
Over the last several years, a competitive market had driven agriculture insurance rates down. Insurance companies made up losses by investing in the high-flying stock market, said Gale Squier, owner of Anchor Insurance in Lincoln, an independent insurance agency.
But the stock market's fall this year -- along with Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, which rocked the insurance industry -- have made insurers scrutinize all of their policies and the risks they carry, Squier said.
One insurer, Grain Dealers Mutual Insurance Co. of Indianapolis, said it has stopped insuring grain elevators and other agriculture businesses. The company has been losing money for several years in the industry.
The Nebraska Grain and Feed Association estimates that more than one-third of Nebraska grain elevators, feed mills and chemical dealers could be affected by insurance companies dropping coverage or charging dramatically higher rates.
The association plans to focus its Feb. 19-20 winter convention in Kearney on the problem.
Tim Wagner, director of Nebraska's Department of Insurance, said the problem of insurance availability extends to agriculture and other businesses around the country.
"I don't blame the whole market problem on Sept. 11," Wagner said. "A number of companies have sustained losses and today are looking at what they should underwrite."
Gubbels said he had just begun a search to renew his policy, which expires July 31. And as he worried about the prospect of finding an insurer he could afford, he thought back to a time when coverage was much easier to come by.
"It used to be every third year they'd fight for my business," Gubbels said.
On the Net:
Nebraska Grain and Feed Association: http://www.negfa.org
Nebraska Department of Insurance: http://www.nol.org/home/ndoi
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