Alta. farmers want fast action

Alberta farmers are asking for expedited assessment of their unharvested 2016 crops so they can deal with them and start on 2017 crops when weather permits.

In a conference call April 26, commodity groups under the banner of Team Alberta asked Alberta Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier and senior officials with Agriculture Financial Services Corp. to consider writing off crops by area rather than insist on field by field assessment.

Under crop insurance rules, no adjuster needs to visit if farmers intend to harvest their 2016 crops for the insured purpose. If they put it to another use, such as livestock feed or simply tilling it under, an inspection is required before triggering insurance payout.

“That’s why we all have crop insurance,” Alberta Barley chair Jason Lenz said about risk management.

“But it’s to the point now where it’s not about how much we’re going to actually get from crop insurance. It’s more about how much we’re going to lose in dealing with these unharvested acres and the potential loss of not getting the 2017 crop in the ground. We’re more concerned about how much we’re going to lose and try to keep that to the very minimum.”

Carlier said last week that he has asked AFSC to “streamline inspection procedures to assist insured producers in completing planned harvests. I’ve also asked that the agency be prepared to move quickly if conditions don’t improve.”

Team Alberta says AFSC and the government confirmed they’ve done that so inspectors can make quicker decisions.

Lenz said speed will be required, given that commodity groups were told 130 inspectors may have to examine up to one million acres of 2016 crop either standing or in swath.

Even in the best-case scenario of hot, drying weather, it would take those inspectors two weeks to do that job, said Lenz, which takes the process into mid-May.

“After those farmers have that assessment, then they still have to get out and deal with that crop that’s out there and prepare the field for this season and then actually plant for this season.

“So we’re talking closer to the third week or later in May, and that’s getting on the late side to get crops in the ground.”

Wildlife and mice have enjoyed the crop buffet all winter, and some farmers are reporting heavy damage. A few who have managed to combine the 2016 crop have threshed large numbers of mice, making the grain even less palatable than it was already.

As well, Lenz said he has heard that some canola crushers will not accept any spring-threshed crop, so farmers are taking it to grain handlers where there are challenges blending it up to a decent level.

“There’s all sorts of these difficulties that farmers are running into,” he said.

Kevin Bender, vice-chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission who farms at Bentley, said the situation “is becoming a little more urgent all the time. It’s not critical right now but it’s not far from there.”

Added Lenz: “This could very quickly turn into a two-year disaster, a two-year loss for these producers — loss of production and obviously financial loss.”

Another conference call with the minister was planned for this week to keep him abreast of the issue.

Team Alberta comprises Alberta Barley, the Alberta Wheat Commission, the Alberta Canola Producers Commission and the Alberta Pulse Growers Commission. Together they represent about 43,000 farmers.

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