Producer upset with SCIC policy

Wet spring delayed seeding last year — and resulted in no insurance coverage for some

A farmer from Pangman, Sask., says he and several others in the area were denied unseeded acreage coverage last year, even though it was too wet to seed.

He wonders how many others were also left out.

Jim Liggett appealed the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp.’s decision locally and to the provincial appeal panel but was denied both times.

“The reason first was (that) we were denied because you’re covered only if you have no opportunity to seed,” he said.

“Well, it got too late. We were seeding, but we didn’t get it all done.”

The second reason was that delayed seeding is a management decision and insurance doesn’t cover that.

“It doesn’t say in the crop insurance coverage you have to go out first day in the spring and seed everything,” Liggett said.

He said 2016 started out dry and he began working his fields in April. His peas were seeded by mid-May.

But then the rain began coming every few days and totalled 200 millimetres by the June 20 seeding deadline.

He planted some oats but not all of it.

“I had another quarter section, which I would have liked to seed, and worked it, but it was just too wet,” he said.

He seeded about 400 of his 750 cultivated acres.

Liggett said he wasn’t too concerned because he had bought unseeded acreage coverage that pays $100 per acre. However, he started asking around when his claim was denied.

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“There was nine other guys in an area of adjoining RMs,” he said.

Liggett said he and others are worried about what will happen this year.

“Last fall, where that ground was too wet in June, there was water standing,” he said.

NDP agriculture critic Cathy Sproule raised Liggett’s case in the legislature last week. She said SCIC’s policy should be reviewed.

She said Liggett has farmed for 40 years, and the corporation shouldn’t be telling him how to farm.

“They’re asking farmers to predict the future and predict the rain,” she said.

Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said SCIC has firm dates that would be extended only in extreme circumstances.

“Crop insurance doesn’t insure for high risk farming practices,” he said in an interview.

“Late seeding is probably the highest risk of all.”

Cereals seeded after June 20 aren’t going to do well, Stewart said.

“I can’t see the policy changing,” he said.

SCIC chief executive officer Shawn Jaques wouldn’t speak to the specifics of Liggett’s case but said adjusters take into consideration all conditions on a farm when a claim is made.

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Management also reviews the information from the adjuster.

“SCIC will never dictate to a farmer how to conduct their work,” Jaques said.

“They’re free to manage their farm the way they choose. However, sometimes decisions that producers may make on their farm could impact their insurance.”

For example, excessive weed growth is not an insurable cause of loss.

Adjusters use photographs, topographical maps and weather information to make their decisions. They also look at what happened regionally.

However, he said the rules are clear.

“If the land wasn’t seeded as of June 20 because of excess moisture … was there an opportunity to seed that land?” he said.

Jaques said there is a rigorous appeal process, and producers who are unsatisfied with the outcome can take their complaints to the provincial ombudsman.

Liggett said he doesn’t fault the adjusters for their decisions and recognized they have to follow rules to protect against abuses, but he wonders why he is paying a premium for unseeded acreage only to be denied.

“After 2011, when it was so wet all over, they told us we weren’t going to get any more money if it’s a flood year unless we’ve got crop insurance,” he said. “How good is that crop insurance coverage? That’s the question.

“There’s a bunch of us that are kind of frustrated with this. Maybe they better look at this policy again.”

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