Farmers seek insurance promise

Commissions for Alberta’s major crops are pressing the provincial agriculture department and the Agriculture Financial Services Corp. to ensure farmers are covered for the many acres of unharvested 2016 crop.

The Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Barley, Alberta Canola Producers Commission and Alberta Pulse Growers Commission scheduled a meeting with the agriculture minister and AFSC April 26 to discuss the issue.

One million acres are left to harvest in the province, most of them north of Highway 16. Snowfall on Easter weekend and snow in this week’s forecast are keeping farmers from harvesting last year’s crop or seeding this one.

“We’re hearing too many tales, and they just might be tales, but a lot of farmers are calling us saying they are very concerned that they’re going to be standing there waiting for an agent,” said Alberta Canola Producers Commission general manager Ward Toma.

“They don’t want to be outside their contract and somehow lose coverage by doing something they shouldn’t have. We have been hearing a lot of reports from farmers that they’re unsure of what AFSC’s procedures on some of these things are.”

Mustafa Eric, media co-ordinator for AFSC, said no adjuster needs to visit if farmers intend to harvest their 2016 crops for the purpose insured.

However, a crop inspection is necessary if they put it to another use, such as livestock feed or burning simply to remove it from fields.

Eric said the same weather conditions affecting farmers are a challenge for AFSC.

“Precipitation is making it difficult for us to inspect the crop,” he said. “It is not easy to inspect the crop still under snow. Our inspectors are doing their best to cope with the demand.”

Toma said there have been no reports of anyone being denied coverage.

The commissions, in a joint release under the Team Alberta banner, said they want to ensure that farmers meet AFSC requirements so they can get moving as quickly as possible when weather does allow field access.

“In many areas, destroying last year’s crop is the only solution that ensures farmers can seed this year’s crop early enough to avoid fall frost damage,” said Alberta Wheat Commission chair Kevin Auch in a Team Alberta news release.

Added Alberta Barley chair Jason Lenz: “If harvesting simply isn’t an option because of timing and wet conditions, the procedures around crop insurance payouts will need to be adjusted so farmers’ crops aren’t compromised two years in a row.”

On its website, AFSC advises that producers who can’t seed the 2017 crop are entitled to the unseeded acreage benefit as part of their annual production insurance.

To qualify, they must have an active 2017 crop insurance contract and unseeded acres because of excess moisture as of June 20. Also, the number of acres they intend to seed must be declared by April 30.

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