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April 11, 2011   Email to Friend 

SECOND CHANCE: DeKalb Poultry Grower Finds Extra Coverage Pays
By Darryal Ray

Ten days after paying the premium for additional coverage on his DeKalb County poultry houses, Chuck Ott saw his farm almost wiped out by a tornado.
The phone's ring had one of those oddly urgent sounds to it: Brrrrinngg! Then, just as abruptly, it quit mid-ring.

Seconds later, it did it again.

Chuck Ott of Ider hadn't counted on getting out of bed at 4 a.m. that October morning, but those curious rings had aroused the DeKalb County poultry grower from his sleep. "I got awake just enough to look outside, and the sky was all lit up by lightning," Ott recalled. "It was like daylight, and the phone would ring with the lightning strikes."

But it wasn't the lightning that turned Ott's life upside down that morning -- it was the tornado that destroyed two of his poultry houses, damaged two others and a dry stack shed.

"I've got 100 foot of one house that's down, and 100 foot of another house that's standing," Ott said in December as workers were still crawling around the fallen houses, ripping up sheets of tin. "It looks like it picked up the middle of this one and the front of that one up, scooted it over about 10 to 20 feet and set it back down. ... We're going to have to tear those two down and start all over again. It shook the fire out of the other two houses. The nail plates in the trusses were torn out, and they've got several pieces of tin gone. I haven't got the bids on them yet -- ballpark guess: $10,000 to $20,000 worth of damage to them. We got so worried about getting the others rebuilt that those sort of went on the back burner because I can still get chickens in those."

Of course, it could have been worse. Much worse.

Only a month earlier, Alfa Agent Walter Watts had reviewed Ott's farm policy and found the coverage no longer met minimum coverage requirements due to rising construction costs.

"The paperwork had been sent in and he was to be billed the new premium for the total amount, including the added coverage," said Watts. "I had spoken to him a couple of times back in September, and we just had a difficult time getting together. So, I went to his wife's office and got the paperwork completed."

On Oct. 15, Ott paid the new premium.

On Oct. 25, the tornado hit.

"It was my understanding that the paperwork was still on the desk and hadn't been sent into the home office yet, but they went ahead and paid the extra money," said Ott. "I think it was $10,000 extra for the house, and $10,000 for the equipment that was added to it."

Rex Seabrook, manager of farm underwriting for Alfa, said Ott's case underscores the importance of keeping farm policies current.

"It is critical that our poultry growers are insured to value," said Seabrook, adding that Alfa insures thousands of poultry houses throughout the state. "Often times when we inspect a poultry farm, or when an agent completes a rewrite of the policy, he or she needs to raise the coverage amount on the poultry houses to more accurately reflect today's costs. Costs of modern construction can be as high a $5 per square foot for a broiler house, and even higher for breeder houses."

Seabrook added that while there is no specific "minimum" requirement in terms of the total value of poultry houses, each poultry house is individually valued based on its age, coverage (in terms of whether it's replacement cost coverage or actual cash value), current construction costs, and the condition of the building at the time it is inspected.

"(Alfa Adjuster) Marc Peters was up here the morning that it happened and was taking pictures," said Ott. "He told me right off the bat what would happen, and everything was just like he said it would be. When I finally got the bids in, I turned my paperwork in and then in three days, I had a check."

As of late February, Ott was still hoping to get his poultry houses rebuilt, but a harsh winter with more snow than usual and lots of rain wreaked havoc with construction. Delays aside, Ott said, he was "tickled plumb to death" with Alfa's quick claims service, calling it "wonderful ... all of it was amazing."

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