An agricultural expert is urging farmers to take stock this winter or face losing thousands of pounds on claims.

With figures showing two thirds of farmers fell victim to a crime in just 12 months, Will Kendrick, of Farmers and Mercantile Insurance Brokers (FMIB) fears farmers are risking significant shortfalls in the event of theft and fire claims, due to underestimating the value of farm contents.

More than two thirds (69%) of farmers and ‘rural-specific’ business owners fell victim to a crime over a 12-month period, according to the latest National Rural Crime Survey. Whilst the biggest proportion of criminal activity was flytipping, incidents involving financial loss, such as theft and criminal damage, including vandalism and arson, were among the top crimes committed against farmers.

With the harvest season over, Will said now is the time for farmers to re-evaluate the value of farm contents or run the risk of being underinsured, particularly as new machinery and grain or potato stores will have driven up the value of building contents.

Will said: “We see time and time again cases of farmers having low sums insured for their farm contents, which includes tools, workshop machinery, hay, straw, fertiliser, sprays, diesel, oil – literally everything in a farmyard.

“Unfortunately, it is often the case that farmers only discover that they are underinsured when they come to make a claim, as they start to work out exactly what they have and what is missing or damaged.

“Rural crime is a significant problem, impacting the majority of farming businesses, so it would be remiss of farmers not to protect themselves adequately – particularly at a time when many farmers are financially vulnerable, due to ongoing economic uncertainty.

“As the busy harvest season has now come to a close, farmers will have more time on their hands to take proper stock of the value of all contents on their farm.

“It is especially important for arable farmers, who have bought new machinery for this year’s harvest or keeping their crops in store in preparation for a good sale in spring, to give an accurate estimate of the value of their farm buildings’ contents to their insurers.

“Other valuable commodities, such as oil, diesel, tools, and animal feed, are often overlooked by farmers but these are attractive targets for thieves and should be subject to the appropriate level of cover.”

The National Rural Crime Survey found that 39 per cent of ‘rural-specific’ business owners, mostly made up of farmers, are more worried about crime than they were five years ago and 60 per cent are fairly or very worried about becoming a victim of crime in the future.

More than half of farmers and ‘rural-specific’ business owners were financially impacted by crime, at an average cost of £4,800 – 13 per cent up on 2015 – but only 28 per cent made a claim.

After falling victim to a crime, 38 per cent said they were more determined to protect themselves and their property, with 31 per cent taking extra security precautions.

“As well as doing an inventory of contents, checking the sums insured and updating your insurer of any shortfall, winter is a good time to think about farm security,” added Will.

“The longer, darker nights give thieves, vandals and arsonists the perfect cover to operate so taking extra precautions will help lower the risk of being targeted – and can even lead to lower insurance premiums.

“Keep machinery and vehicles in securely locked sheds and consider installing security cameras, alarms, light sensors and security signage. Immobilise farm machinery, where possible, ensure nothing is on display in the cab and always keep the keys in a secure location.

“Diesel is a valuable commodity so ensure that tractors are locked up at night, to prevent thieves siphoning fuel, and consider fitting fuel bowsers with wheel clamps or hitch locks.

“Metal-stripping is becoming increasingly popular crime, with tools, building materials, machine parts and cabling all key targets. Consider replacing copper and lead with artificial lead, which is less costly to replace, or mark the metal with tamper-proof stickers and use anti-climb paint.

“Ensure the perimeters are well maintained and restrict access to the yard with locked gates and security barriers and consider signing up to Farm, Country and Neighbourhood Watch schemes.

“Criminals generally target isolated areas, so these networks become the eyes and ears of the countryside, helping to combat rural crime.”