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Crop Insurance: Hail claims dipped sharply but unharvested acres soared

The number of unseeded acres rose eightfold but the provincial crop insurer paid out 
less than half the usual amount of hail claims

Dry conditions had one benefit this year — they helped contribute to a big drop in hail damage.

“It was very dry in the south, with less activity in relation to hail. The central-south areas were more active this year,” said Daniel Graham, manager of business risk products with the Agricultural Financial Services Corporation (AFSC).

“It’s well below the hail events that we were having the last couple of years.”

The provincial crop insurer paid out $25 million in hail claims this year — well under half of the $60 million hail payout in 2016.

It was the same story across the Prairies, with $96 million being paid out on 8,600 claims — making it “one of the lightest hail claim years since 2009,” according to the Canadian Crop Hail Association.

“The storm season was spread across mostly July and August,” the association said in a news release. “All months of June through October reported hail, however, all months showed a decrease in storm frequency from the five-year average.”

But hail wasn’t the big story this year in Alberta — it was the amount of farmland that couldn’t be seeded, mostly because of unharvested acres from 2016 that had to first be dealt with during what was a wet spring in large parts of the province.

“We had approximately 4,000 producers report just under 600,000 unseeded acres for the 2017 crop year,” said Graham. “That’s compared to a reported average of 76,000 unseeded acres from the previous five years.”

The unseeded acres claims have all been processed, despite worries that the province’s 350 crop inspectors wouldn’t be able to assess everything in time. However, deadlines were extended past Nov. 30, 2016, which gave producers extended coverage for any loss that would have occurred for unharvested crops kept over winter. Essentially coverage was provided until crops were harvested, plowed under, or written off in the spring.

“In the meantime, we did provide unharvested acreage benefits to those producers who were significantly impacted and we started issuing payments in January of 2017,” said Graham.

The coverage producers had taken for 2016 and the quality of the unharvested crops all impacted what the benefits would have looked like.

“With the magnitude of the unharvested acres that we had in 2016, we streamlined our processes in order to expedite those claims as quickly as possible,” he said.

There were some individuals who voiced concerns, but for the most part, producers were understanding that this was an unprecedented situation and a major challenge for AFSC, he said.

Mother Nature was less understanding, with many of the hail claims in the areas that had large numbers of unseeded acres this spring. The worst-affected areas included Brazeau County, Lac Ste. Anne, an area east of Vermilion, and the Peace region.

The heavy claims mean rates for next year won’t be identical to this year’s, but premiums have not yet been determined, Graham said. They are determined by factors such as elective coverage, premium loss ratios, and the claim history of individual operations.

Meanwhile, AFSC has yet to close the books on the fallout from a scandal over staff expenses that saw the board of directors dismissed in the summer of 2016 and three top executives depart. A new board has since been appointed, but the corporation still does not have a new chief executive officer.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, she has also published two collections of poetry and a biography about a Sikh civil rights activist. Her freelance work has appeared in numerous publications across Canada.

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