Sask. ranchers welcome crop insurance changes

As well, contract price option to include barley, commercial canola, oats, hard red spring wheat, durum and CPS wheat

Saskatchewan cattle producers say wildfire coverage and improved predation compensation offered in this year’s crop insurance program provide much-needed added protection.

Wildfires devastated more than 88,000 acres of mainly pasture last year and there was no insurance for fire damage, which will likely result in lost productivity. Many organizations had urged Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp. to add coverage.

“Producers who enrol in the forage rainfall insurance program will have year-round coverage for fire on pasture when they purchase that insurance,” said Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart as he announced the 2018 program Feb. 28.

Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association chair Rick Toney said last year’s events highlighted gaps in the program.

“Linking the proposed coverage with rainfall insurance makes sense,” he said.

The coverage rate will depend on soil zones. Insurance is available on tame and native pasture.

“We appreciate that the government is trying to make forage coverage for fire loss more consistent with other types of crops,” said Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association president Shane Jahnke.

Both also lauded changes to predation compensation. Previously, the program paid $600 per calf and producers have said that didn’t reflect the true loss of a marketable animal. Now, the program will use the fall market price to set a minimum value.

“Previous coverage was inadequate to cover losses,” Jahnke said.

The Western Livestock Price Insurance Program is also continuing and producers have until the end of May to buy policies.

Other options available under the forage program include a forage restoration benefit for tame hay and alfalfa seed.

“This enhancement will compensate producers who lose insured acres of established hay or alfalfa seed due to prolonged flooding,” Stewart said.

As well, the corn heat unit program is expanding to 131 weather stations across the province to reflect where the crop is now being grown.

The contract price option, in which growers use their contracted price as the basis for their insurance, has been expanded to include barley, commercial canola, oats, hard red spring wheat, durum and Canadian prairie spring wheat.

Malt barley producers had asked for this type of insurance to align with Alberta and to take into account the higher value of their contracted malt barley production, said Stewart.

Beekeepers also saw requested changes with the introduction of individual deductibles. Previously, the deductible was based on long-term industry averages of winter bee losses.

The variable price option for crops has been discontinued because producers weren’t using it. However, it remains for forage growers. The in-season option, in which insured prices are finalized in February to reflect market changes through the year, also remains.

Finally, establishment benefit values are increasing for canola, sunflowers, chickpeas and grain corn, but dropping to $45 per acre from $60 for large green lentils. The latter is due to a drop in seed costs.

Overall, the average coverage is $216 per acre, down from $217 per acre last year. Average premiums are also down slightly from $8.51 to $8.41 per acre.

Stewart said coverage remains strong due to ongoing improvements in yields.

“Premiums have remained relatively steady because of the strong fund balance used to pay claims,” he said. “Even with over $600 million in claims from the challenging 2016 growing season, where 1.3 million acres were left out over winter and with over $200 million in claims in 2017 due to one of the driest years in the province’s history, SCIC continues to keep a strong fund balance of over $2 billion.”

As in past years, the minister warned producers to take a good look at their risk management programs because the province will not provide ad hoc money in the event of a weather disaster. Soil moisture reserves were depleted last year and winter snow cover in much of the southern grain belt is minimal so far.

“Producers should make sure they are prepared,” he said, adding that the options now make it easy to customize individual programs to suit management styles.

“Don’t just roll over your coverage,” he said.

And, he reminded producers that Saskatchewan will not trigger late participation in AgriStability. There are changes coming to the program April 1, as the country’s agriculture ministers agreed last summer. A key one will be the cap on reference margin limits so benefits can drop to only a certain level.

“I think we’re all at risk,” added Stewart, referring to the dry conditions. “I’m a farmer too and I know we’re going to make sure we’re well insured.

“I haven’t admitted this before but we haven’t been in AgriStability but we’re getting back in.”

About the author



Stories from our other publications