Many empty bins were destroyed by plough winds last summer. Not all damage is preventable, but there are steps you can take
Farmers are purchasing more and more on-farm storage these days. With more bins on farms, there are also more reports of bin damage due, particularly due to catastrophic winds. While some acts of God cannot be guarded against, farmers can take precautions.
Meridian Manufacturing Inc. is the largest bin manufacturer in North America. Its head office and one of its manufacturing plants are at Winkler, Manitoba; Meridian also has manufacturing plants in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Iowa. Meridian has over 1,000 employees and services a global market.
Although Meridian does not sell directly to the public, Henry Wiebe, inside sales specialist at Winkler says they do advise dealers on bin installation.
“Each bin comes with a skid and can be installed on solid, compacted ground,” Wiebe says. “Earth anchors or skid anchors are a recommended option to further secure the bin.” He says installation on concrete pads is also recommended. In that case the bin can be bolted down.
Jason Klassen is the owner of Wentworth Ag in Winkler, Manitoba. “I recommend our customers install their bins on concrete pads, if possible, and bolt them down,” he says. “However, not everyone will do that. In that case, we recommend installation on good, compacted ground and using screw-in anchors, especially if the bins are going to be installed in an area that will expose them to wind.” Over the years, Klassen has seen the wind powerful enough to tear bins off concrete pads.
Farrell Agencies at Yorkton, Saskatchewan is a leading insurance brokerage with an extensive agricultural book, covering the Prairies and British Columbia. Dave Nussbaumer is a co-owner of Farrell Agencies and also farmed for 30 years. “Our experience with the six or more insurance markets we use is, when it comes to bin insurance, it ranges from no rules necessary to a minimum of four anchors per bin, with three-eights of a inch to quarter inch cables.”
Nussbaumer says anchors can help to secure a bin, but the wind can overcome them. “We saw big bin losses in 2012,” he explained. “With all the moisture in many areas, the ground became saturated and the anchors just gave way.”
Insurance rates on steel bins are low enough, many farmers don’t think it worthwhile to put cement pads down. “If you take into consideration deductibles and depreciation, over the long term the farm might be further ahead if the concrete is poured,” he says.
Lighter than they look
Nussbaumer has seen all sorts of bin destruction over the years and had some other points to share:
- Engineering improvements have made bins lighter and stronger and bigger. Now they are like big balloons sitting in the wind, sticking up 50 to 60 feet or sometimes higher.
- Many bins may remain upright but will collapse on the side facing the wind.
- Placing a row of bins one to two feet apart is like creating a solid wall to the on-coming wind. In those cases, Nussbaumer sees the centre bins sustain more wind damage, and he sees it every year. Placing the bins six, eight or 10 feet apart will allow the wind to blow through and around the bins without causing damage, or as much damage.
- The majority of bin claims are for wind damage on empty bins. Even a few hundred bushels left in a bin will prevent it blowing over in most cases.
“Insurance companies are starting to look at reducing risk on their farm book of business,” says Nussbaumer. “Up until recently, it was tough to try and raise rates as farms were just not as profitable. Now, rates are creeping up slowly.” No one likes having to pay extra premium, but by the same token, Nussbaumer says farmers have expectations of how they want to be treated when they have do a claim.
“Ultimately, my advice for farmers is to have the proper coverage, the right deductible and don’t over-insurae but insure to value,” says Nussbaumer. †