Sask. ag spending millions over budget

Saskatchewan agricultural spending is projected to rise $40.7 million over budget because more farmers bought crop insurance than expected this year, said finance minister Kevin Doherty.

The first quarter financial results, released Aug. 25, showed overall expenses are forecast to be up $81.9 million, or 0.6 percent, from budget, while revenue is expected to be $42 million higher.

Sask. Crop Insurance Corp. CEO Shawn Jaques said officials had estimated farmers would insure 27.5 million acres. Instead, they insured 28.3 million acres.

“The actual insured acres is down, but up from what we forecast them to be,” Jaques said, adding farmers insured 29.1 million acres last year.

This resulted in extra premium costs to governments above the budget estimate and accounts for most of the $40 million.

There is a small corresponding revenue offset of $15.4 million representing the portion of premiums farmers paid.

Jaques said the budget estimates were based on what happened in 2016. There had been a large in-crease in pulse acres and a lot of crop left out over winter.

“We anticipated a percentage of those acres would remain unseeded and that pulse acres would decrease,” he said.

This happened to a degree. He said farmers worked hard this spring to get crop off and re-seed, and lentil acreage did decline.

Jaques added that staff is finalizing claims from last year. The government has said it expects about $650 million in payouts largely because of the wet harvest.

Producers registered about 800 pre-harvest claims to put crops to alternate use this year, mostly by livestock producers who are short of feed and pasture.

Doherty said it’s far too early to tell what effect this year’s crop will have on the budget.

“What we’re hearing from the minister of agriculture, and the ministry of agriculture, is that crops are doing better than they had anticipated,” he told reporters.

Jaques said farmers have told him they are pleasantly surprised with yield and quality so far. The warm, windy weather of late is exactly what they needed, he said.

In early August, Jaques posted a letter to producers acknowledging the expected yield losses in the south.

“We have developed a process to expedite claims in the areas where we know crop losses will be significant as a result of the dry conditions,” said the letter. “We are also prepared to move adjusters around the province to areas where additional resources are needed to handle the workload.”

Producers are asked to submit production information as soon as they have finished harvest so claims can be calculated and payments can be made as soon as possible.

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