Increased hailstorms across Alberta have crushed many crops, and hail claims are soaring this year.
“We’re trending to be similar to 2012, which was the record claim year,” said Nikki Booth, communications manager with the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. “At this point in time, it’s looking like we will not be as high as 2012, but we need to see what the remainder of the season looks like.”
Four years ago, the province paid out slightly more than $450 million on 6,898 approved claims (which AFSC calls “contracts”). As of Aug. 10, about 9,224 crop insurance claims had been filed across the province, including 8,363 claims for hail.
“The number of contracts we have paid out on is under the number paid in 2012, so at this point in time, we aren’t seeing the trend above 2012 like we were a few weeks back,” said Booth.
Southern Alberta had the highest number of hail claims, with the central and the Parkland areas following behind, and northern Alberta having very few hail claims.
Hailstorms were common across the province at the end of June and throughout July. Crops in southern Alberta have suffered from lack of moisture, with yields less than normal, according to the Canadian Crop Hail Association Report for Aug. 11. This is a sharp contrast to the rest of the province, which has experienced high levels of moisture, and flooding in some areas. Some crops are being cut for feed due to severe hail damage.
Alberta isn’t alone when it comes to hail damage this year, with claims also up in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. And the wet weather is also causing problems for adjusters, who can’t get out on the land to survey damaged crops.
Farmers need to be patient while waiting for claims to be adjusted, and should contact their insurance providers directly for advice about appropriate check strips, said Booth.
“There’s no typical hail claim,” she said. “Some payouts had quite a bit of damage, and some farmers have lost their entire crop. It’s going to depend on crop types and the age of the crop. It’s pretty varied. We won’t know until the early fall how much we’ve paid out in hail.”
Some producers, including those along Lacombe, Ponoka and Red Deer in ‘Hail Alley,’ have been hammered multiple times by hail.
Bad years often mean more producers will purchase crop insurance.
“Traditionally, we do find that after producers have experienced a challenging year, we do see an uptick in the number of producers who are taking insurance,” said Booth. “We did see a bit of an increase — about 300 to 400 more crop insurance policies sold at the beginning of this year — as a result of the dry conditions last year.”
Whether that trend will continue because of this year’s hail damage remains to be seen, said Booth.
“Obviously we’ve seen some pretty significant weather and this has impacted producers, but I don’t know if buying crop insurance is a trend,” she said. “We’ll see how many producers add on hail insurance when they renew or purchase insurance next year. It’s too early to tell because those policies aren’t available at this time.”
While the final number of hail claims may not be known until October, AFSC posts weekly claim numbers on its website.
“We’re trying to provide producers with as much information as we can, and what they can expect on the storm they have been dealing with,” said Booth.