This Monday, the Montana Hail Board voted to expand coverage, including a slight increase in premiums on hail insurance. At producers' request & with the authority granted in House Bill 189, the board voted unanimously to increase per-acreage coverage on non-irrigated land from $50 to $75 & on irrigated land from $76 to $114 or a 60% increase in coverage. My friend, Conrad area farmer Gary Gollehon, the Montana hail Board Chair gushed, "Producers were looking for increased coverage & the legislature granted the board authority last session." Gary says that the board was happy to provide the coverage & unanimously passed the motion. In addition, the board unanimously approved a 5% premium rate increase. For a producer with a 10% rate, their new rate would be 10.5%. The hail board covered 1,046 losses totaling more than $14 million from 2013 hail events, a RECORD for the programs 98 year history. Ron de Yong, Director, Montana Department of Agriculture, said that last year was atypical, the hail program paid out 186% of premiums due to the extent of the damage. de Yong says that they look at premiums & reserves every year to ensure that farmers have hail coverage. The 5% is as low as the board felt comfortable raising premiums while still maintaining some reserves & expanding coverage.The board also authorized the department to negotiate for reinsurance to protect farmers IF Montana has another extreme hail year. As we celebrate Montana Agriculture Appreciation Month this month, I'll be blogging more soon on the Montana State Hail Insurance Program & sharing with you what the program is all about & how it assists our Montana farmers & ranchers. For more information on the Montana Department of Agriculture, visit: www.agr.mt.gov.