Dawson: Moisture may trigger more Man. crop claims than frost

Excessive moisture in Manitoba from the Victoria Day long weekend might result in more crop insurance claims than frost.

“From our perspective the amount of rain and snow that came with this storm is probably as big a concern as the frost itself,” David Van Deynze, Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp.’s manager of claim services, said Wednesday.

“We got some areas, especially in southwest Manitoba, that got between two and four inches of rain, and that is really going to hamper their ability to seed this year in some areas because they were already struggling with excess moisture issues.”

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MASC earlier this week was getting calls from farmers about submitting reseeding claims, after widespread frost Sunday.

“We’re trying to encourage our producers to wait,” Van Deynze said. “We want to give the crop three, four, five days to either recover or show that it’s totally dead as far as frost is concerned.”

Most calls are about canola, which is less frost-tolerant than cereals.

Most of the inquiries have come from the Pilot Mound, Manitou and Morden areas.

Wet fields have prevented MASC officials from assessing frost damage and forced farmers to be patient, because they can’t reseed even if they wanted to.

“We think by the end of this week we will be a bit more active in the field, and certainly by next week we’ll be even more active in the field, and hopefully by then producers will have a had chance to assess their own crops and say they want to make a claim or not,” Van Deynze said. “Right now I think a lot are phoning on speculation… because it was too early to tell.”

Last year MASC paid out $63 million in excess moisture insurance (EMI) on 998,000 acres too wet to seed. There were 2,400 claims, many from southwestern Manitoba.

That was up significantly from 219,241 and 117,623 insured acres too wet to plant in 2013 and 2013, respectively.

A record 2.9 million acres were too wet to seed in 2011, triggering $162 million in payments on 5,800 claims under EMI program. That year almost 3.1 million acres, including uninsured land, were too wet to seed.

Although there are a few outstanding claims to settle, crop insurance payouts for 2014 will total around $170 million, Van Deynze said. Of that, EMI payouts will account for 37 per cent.

“Overall it was a fairly average year for us,” with payouts slightly lower than the premiums collected, he said. “Losses were spread out around the province, but again the southwest was harder hit.”

Hail claims, covered through a separate program, were lower than average, triggering $12.4 million in payments, not included in the $170 million paid out under regular crop insurance, he said.

In addition to EMI claims, excessive moisture cut some farmers’ crop yields, triggering an insurance payout.

Poor-quality winter wheat also triggered crop insurance payouts. “That was the probably the biggest thing that was not normal (in 2014)” Van Deynze said.

“The fusarium levels were pretty high, which made it pretty hard to market, and they (farmers) weren’t getting real good prices for their winter wheat.”

Crop insurance pays out when yields fall below a farmer’s chosen coverage level. Coverage includes a guaranteed grade for most crops; for winter wheat, it’s No. 3 Canada Western Red Winter.

Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man. Follow him at @allanreporter on Twitter.

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