Crop insurance ‘first line of defence’

Existing programs will provide support in drought stricken areas, says Gerry Ritz

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Prairie farmers who have watched crops and pastures wither in hot and dry conditions this summer should look to crop insurance for help.

Provincial agriculture ministers meeting in Charlottetown last week discussed the variable conditions across the country and for now expect farmers to use existing programs.

Federal minister Gerry Ritz said there are areas that are too wet and others are facing drought. Two counties in Alberta — Parkland and Mackenzie — have declared drought disasters and others were considering doing the same.

“The first line of defence is crop insurance,” Ritz said.

“In the case of Alberta and most of the Prairies now, there is good comprehensive crop insurance available for both the crop side and the forage and pastures side.”

Alberta minister Oneil Carlier also said the existing programs are available and he would take advice from his officials on if and when to make other decisions.

He said it’s still a bit early to establish how much forage is available for the rest of the grazing season and winter and whether other action will be required.

However, he said some producers are cutting crops for greenfeed and others are already using the feed they had stockpiled for winter.

“I think we’re reaching a point where we’re going to have to look at some other options,” he said. “Right now most areas have adequate feed.”

There was no consensus among the ministers for an ad hoc program or payment.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lyle Stewart said the existing programs should be enough to get producers through to next year. That’s how they are designed, he added.

The province’s crop insurance corporation has agreed to be more flexible in writing crops off quickly so fields can be cut for greenfeed, he said.

Grazing lands belonging to other agencies have been opened up, and he said all crown pastures are full.

“PFRA (federal) pastures, former PFRA pastures that have transitioned to us and Saskatchewan provincial pastures are all at capacity now,” Stewart said.

“They’ve been very flexible at taking in as many cattle as they can handle.”

A fire in the Millie pasture near Hazlet last week will likely mean cattle will have to go home early, he added.

Meanwhile, some farmers in southern Ontario have seen their crops hit with too much rain.

Ritz said recent rain in Alberta and Saskatchewan should help the prairie situation. This year’s harvest won’t produce a bumper crop but the situation improved from 10 days earlier, he added.

“We agreed to monitor all ongoing situations to ensure existing programming is there to deliver the needed support,” he said.

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