Sask. decouples unseeded acres from crop insurance package

(Dave Bedard photo)

A new approach to coverage for fields that can’t be seeded in Saskatchewan has some farmers fearing for the future of the “multi-peril” standard in publicly-funded crop insurance.

The Saskatchewan and federal governments on Thursday unveiled the province’s 2015 crop insurance program, touting both its increased coverage levels and lower premiums for growers.

With a total budget of $154 million, the province said the program’s coverage levels will increase, on average, to $183 per acre, up from $162 last year, while the average premium drops to $7.06 from $7.47.

But the new program revises the coverage scheme for unseeded acreage, which in past years offered minimum coverage of $70 per eligible acre, with the option to increase.

The 2015 program sets up new coverage levels of $50, $70, $85 and $100 per acre, which the province said offers “more choice about coverage for land that may be too wet to seed due to excess spring moisture.”

Also, starting in 2015, the unseeded acreage premium will be charged on total acres normally seeded, not just acres insured through crop insurance. The unseeded acres premium will also now be shown on a producer’s statement as separate from the crop insurance premium, where the two premiums were previously bundled together.

Two premiums

The changes for unseeded-acres coverage make the crop insurance program “more complex,” according to Norm Hall, president of the general farm group Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), in a separate release Thursday.

A “key concern,” the group said, is whether producers will just get the same coverage, but with two premiums to pay, in 2015.

Moreover, Hall said, “decoupling of unseeded acreage benefit brings the concept of multi-peril coverage into question.”

Multi-peril coverage is the traditional model for crop insurance, allowing for aggregate coverage against multiple yield-robbing factors at lower premiums, as opposed to paying for separate coverage per peril.

APAS, he said, will study the new program further and seek a meeting with provincial Ag Minister Lyle Stewart, “to better understand how the legitimate concerns of producers, who have faced flooding, will be addressed.”

In the meantime, APAS said it would urge farmers to “closely consider and understand their options” before the March 31 deadline to apply for, change or cancel a crop insurance contract.

Stewart, in the province’s release, said the 2015 program further allows growers to “custom-fit their crop insurance coverage to the needs of their operation.”

The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) also said it appreciates the lower average premiums and increased coverage — but on the matter of unseeded-acreage coverage, acting SARM president Ray Orb, the reeve for the RM of Cupar, said in the province’s release only that the association “acknowledges the increased flexibility” of the feature.

Hemp, oats

The 2015 program adds hemp as an insurable crop, which Melville-area hemp grower Stuart Sies said will allow the crop’s producers “to mitigate some of the risks associated with growing hemp, and hopefully more producers will consider adding it to their rotation.”

Also, in a move for which Saskatchewan Oats Development Commission chair and Foam Lake oat producer said oat growers are “thankful,” the 2015 program boosts the base grade for oats to a No. 2 CW, up from a No. 3 CW, which the province said “reflect(s) the improved quality of oats grown in the province.”

Melville-based Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp., the Crown agency operating the insurance program, said producers can review and weigh their coverage options through its online tool, CropConnect. Program and contract information are also available at local SCIC offices or by calling 1-888-935-0000. — AGCanada.com Network

 

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