Alberta pledges ‘streamlined’ crop insurance inspections

(Government of Alberta via Flickr)

Alberta’s provincial crop insurance agency will “streamline” its inspection procedures to better deal with unharvested acres from last fall, the government said Wednesday.

The announcement from provincial Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier follows a conference call with officials from Agriculture Financial Services Corp. (AFSC) and from the province’s wheat, barley, canola and pulse grower commissions.

“Balancing the need to expedite crop insurance claims with protecting producers’ hard-earned premium payments is important to me,” Carlier said in a statement following the call.

“That’s why I’ve 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.”

The streamlined processes would allow crop inspectors to make quicker decisions, the commissions said in a joint “Team Alberta” statement, such as making determinations on “quality downgrades caused by mice excreta.”

The provincial and federal government are in talks about changes to the Wildlife Compensation program to accommodate that particular issue in the future, the commissions said.

Carlier said he also asked AFSC to “provide me, as soon as possible, with a fulsome assessment of the current situation and with a plan to expedite crop insurance assessments.”

The commissions had asked the province allow farmers to “dispose of last year’s crop as they see fit without affecting their insurance coverage, to minimize further issues ahead of spring seeding.”

Seeding has already been delayed in “many” parts of the province due to heavy snow, the commissions said, adding that about one million unharvested acres remain from last fall.

“We must move away from field-to-field assessment and begin geographic write-offs in order to begin working on this year’s crop,” Jason Lenz, a grower at Bentley, Alta. and chair of Alberta Barley, said in the commissions’ statement. “There’s simply too much ground to cover and not enough time.”

Farmers now face a “near-impossible” task, the commissions said, waiting for snow to melt and land to dry out, harvesting last year’s crop, repairing and preparing fields and seeding their 2017 crops, “all within the next six weeks.”

“With killing frosts beginning by mid-September in north-central Alberta and the Peace region, farmers are now on an extraordinarily tight timeline,” said Kevin Bender, vice-chair of Alberta Wheat Commission and also a grower near Bentley. “We must be given freedom to operate to avoid another disaster this fall.”

“Every passing day is one step closer to a widespread disaster if farmers are not allowed to seed until they meet with one of the AFSC’s 130 crop inspectors,” the commission said, calling for “expedited” insurance payouts for farmers in the hardest-hit areas. — Network

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