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Deep Roots in the Tree Fruit Industry Helps to Protect Clients

Our connection to the tree fruit industry goes back generations.  The tree fruit risk management and insurance specialists at PayneWest not only have decades of experience working with grower, packer, shipper operations, but many of our colleagues grew up working in family-owned tree fruit operations. This deep connection and industry experience has led PayneWest to being the trusted risk manager by 70 percent of Washington’s tree fruit producers.

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This knowledge of the industry allows PayneWest to understand industry trends, respond to changes in the insurance market, and help clients navigate dynamic industry challenges.  “There isn’t a whole lot that happens in the industry that we don’t know about and that helps us structure risk management tools and consult with clients to find innovative and creative solutions,” said Jeff Widdows, a tree fruit specialist at PayneWest.  These solutions extend beyond just “traditional insurance.”  When Jeff observed that companies were running into challenges with the need to cover and allow workers with H2A permits to operate vehicles with a foreign driver’s license, he worked with insurance carriers and the state of Washington to find an acceptable solution.  “We didn’t write the policy, but we helped bring the right people to the table and facilitated a conversation about ‘how do we make this work.”

Putting this experience to work, has helped clients even on their most difficult days. When a client suffered a massive fire at a packing facility during the peak of harvest season, Jeff and his network responded quickly.  In addition to the safety and financial concerns of the loss at this facility, the client also needed an immediate solution to process and pack its fruit to avoid additional losses.  “Right away, I was on the phone with partners and other producers to help secure packing agreements to help mitigate the financial impact,” said Widdows.

While getting those agreements in place, Widdows and his team were hands-on, working around-the-clock with the client, its insurance providers and claims teams helping the company manage the claim process to rebuild and replace the facility with an eye toward the future.  “Within 15 months, the client opened what is now, arguably, the premium pear packing facility in the world,” said Widdows.  Although he would never say a claim or loss of this size or nature was easy, the company was able to bounce back more quickly and in a more competitive position in the market because policies and coverage were structured properly due to the annual work that the client and PayneWest do on risk management and policy design.

“Our team spent dozens of hours with the client each week for over a year managing the claim, working with adjustors, vendors, contractors and helping approve costs,” said Widdows. “We were able to focus our time and energy on moving forward because the coverage was never in question.”

PayneWest will continue to be firmly planted in the tree fruit industry not just because it is an important part of its business but because it is part of its legacy.  “Our goal is to be as comprehensive as we can for our tree fruit clients,” said Widdows.  “For 90 % of our clients we offer risk management and insurance services from stem to store and we do this by continuing to learn, innovate and advocate for the industry.”


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