Farming

Who is a farmer?

The statutory definitions of farming, farm premises, farm operations and farmers are extremely broad. The law has a long list of farm operations related to plant and animal commodities that cover everything from cultivating, breeding, tending, raising, training, managing and harvesting to processing, drying, packing, packaging, freezing, grading, storing, delivering, distributing, or marketing. The law also says that farming shall also include "any other activities commonly considered to be farming whether conducted on or off (farm) premises."

What if I rent?

It makes no difference whether the farmer owns or rents the farm premises. The same broad exemptions from the requirement to obtain insurance apply.

What if I don't make a profit?

It does not matter. There is no requirement that the farmer actually succeed in raising any crop, animal, animal product, or commodity.

What about logging?

"Logging, lumbering or wood cutting" operations are not by themselves considered farm operations. However, if they are done as part of other farm operations, they are considered farm operations for all worker's compensation purposes. On the other hand, clearing farm premises, salvaging dead timber and managing and using wood lots are, by themselves, considered farming. They are not considered "logging, lumbering or wood cutting."

What about people who provide services to farmers?

Commercial threshers, clover hullers, silo fillers, corn shredders, and other employers who work for farmers are not considered to be engaged in farming operations. Their contractors become subject to the Worker's Compensation Act like any other non-farm employer. These employers and their employees are not counted for purposes of determining whether a farmer has 6 employees.

I recently was required to get a worker's compensation policy for my farm operation. Can I exclude my relatives from coverage under the policy?

No, relatives cannot be excluded from coverage. The policy covers all employees including your relatives. Insurance premium will be charged on all of your employees' wages including any relatives that work for you. Only two cooperate officers of a closely held corporation and members of a qualified religious sect who are certified for exemptions by the Department of Workforce Development may be excluded from coverage.

Can a farmer voluntarily obtain worker's compensation insurance?

Yes, all employers, including farmers, may voluntarily elect coverage for themselves or their employees. In the event of a work-injury, they are eligible for all medical wage and other worker's compensation benefits, without regard to who was a fault in causing the injury. The voluntary purchase of a worker's compensation policy also protects the employer from most civil tort actions by employees related to the work-injury. With few exceptions, where the employer has the worker's compensation insurance coverage in place, an injured worker is limited to the benefits to which he or she is legally entitled under the Worker's Compensation Act.

I thought I was subject to the Act, so I took out a policy. Now, I find out I was never required to have coverage. What can I do?

Whenever anyone voluntarily elects coverage, whether purposely or by mistake--and assuming that during the period for which voluntary coverage is obtained the farmer does not otherwise become subject to the Act by having 6 or more employees on 20 days during a calendar year--the person may cancel that policy at any time. There is no waiting period.

My neighbor and I are farmers who, together with our crews, often work together on an exchange basis on each other's farms. Do I count my neighbor's employees as my employees when they are working on my farm?

A special law applies to farmers who exchange workers. For purposes of counting, your neighbor and his or her employees are not counted toward your 6-employee threshold. Your neighbor's employees are counted only by your neighbor to determine whether he or she has 6 employees on 20 days and is subject to the Act.

Once a farmer is required to get insurance, how long does he or she have to keep it?

Quite a while. Once a farmer is required to obtain insurance, even if he or she permanently drops below 6 employees, the farmer must maintain the insurance for the remainder of that calendar year--and for the next calendar year--before he or she is eligible to withdraw.

Once a farmer has gone a full calendar year without employing 6 or more employees on 20 days, the farmer may drop insurance coverage by first filing a notice of withdrawal with the Worker's Compensation Division, and then waiting 30 days. The coverage will automatically lapse. If, for some reason, the farmer wants to drop coverage more than 30 days later, the later date should be specified in the notice of withdrawal. Farmers should contact the Worker's Compensation Division for the necessary withdrawal forms.

Farmers who are not subject to the law and do not carry worker's compensation insurance may be sued in a civil action for damages by an employee who is injured while at work.