What started as an early spring has turned into a reseeding frenzy as farmers race against crop insurance deadlines to reseed nearly a million acres damaged by a blizzard, frost, heavy rains and voracious flea beetles.
“The May 30 frost was bad for two reasons. One, it was widespread. Two, it was later in the year. If you get a frost May 15 it doesn’t hurt a whole bunch because most of the crops aren’t out of the ground yet,” said David Van Deynze, manager of the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation’s (MASC) claim services in an interview June 5.
“It’s as bad a year (for reseeding claims) that we’ve had on record or at least since the ’90s.”
As of June 5, MASC had 2,745 reseeding claims for the whole season — 1,875 since the May 30 frost. That translates into around 950,000 acres — 90 per cent of them canola, Van Deynze said.
Blaine Woycheshin, Bayer CropScience’s manager of oilseed crops, estimates more than one million acres of canola will be reseeded across the West — mostly in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
It’s the biggest reseeding hit western Canadian farmers have taken in a while, he said. “We always get a bit of reseeding due to frost but nothing of this magnitude,” he said June 4.
The last year reseeding claims in Manitoba exceeded 2,000 was 1998. That’s before Van Deynze began working for MASC, but the Manitoba Co-operator reported in late May 1998 that crop insurance was expecting more than 1,000 reseeding claims following heavy rains in the Red River Valley and the eastern region. That was followed by a frost in parts of the province May 29, 1998.
The final tally on reseeding claims won’t be known for a while because sometimes farmers change their minds, Van Deynze said.
Canola seed companies, agri-retailers and farmers were scrambling last week to get seed into position. Rain early and late in the week delayed some reseeding operations. Most farmers are expected to get seed to reseed, although it might not be their first choice of variety, said Manitoba Canola Growers Association president Ed Rempel.
“We’re still treating (seed) at full tilt,” Woycheshin said.
“We’ve got as many trucks as we can find. We’re doing our best to supply the growers. We’ve been working on cleaning up inventory and drive stuff around. There has been a lot of co-operation from the retail chain. We think the end is near. We do appreciate the growers’ patience. This is not a win for anybody.”
Keystone Agricultural Producers president Dan Mazier, who farms near Justice, praised the industry and MASC for doing a good job under challenging conditions.
“Generally I think it was very well handled,” he said while reseeding his own canola June 4. “It tested the whole system so far as supplying seed and it seemed to step up. I wished we had the same kind of service from the railways.”
Mazier said he reseeded about 40 per cent of his canola.
MASC demonstrated it can also adapt when it decided some farmers didn’t need to get a field inspected or leave a check strip before reseeding, Mazier said.
“I think that was a really good move,” he said. “They put their trust in farmers. It was appreciated.”
MASC’s reseeding benefit is 25 per cent of the farmer’s crop insurance coverage. That averages about $65 an acre. In addition, some seed companies offer rebates when farmers who grew their canola are forced to reseed. Bayer CropScience rebates $400 on each bag of its Invigor canola seed, which covers around two-thirds of the cost, Woycheshin said.
“Our goal is to try and get you an Invigor that fits your maturity too,” he said. “As it’s getting later we don’t want to be caught on the other end (with a fall frost).”
Some farmers opted not to reseed frozen canola. As few as one or two herbicide-tolerant plants per square foot can result in a decent yield, said Anastasia Kubinec, oilseed specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development. However, it takes lots of management. Weed and insect control are critical.
Frost struck many Manitoba canola fields June 9, 2009. Farmers who left their canola and those who replanted both had excellent yields, she said. But growing conditions were good as well that year with good moisture and no excessive heat during flowering.
Some farmers have seeded canola two or three times this spring, Van Deynze said. But MASC’s reseeding benefit, based on 25 per cent of the farmer’s coverage, is available just once per season on spring-planted crops.
A reseeding claim reduces the farmer’s coverage 25 per cent if the crop is later written off. However, if the claim is 75 per cent or less than full coverage, the farmer is fully compensated.
For example, if a farmer has $100 acre coverage and makes reseeding claim he or she gets $25. If the crop is 100 per cent written off, the farmer receives $75 ($100-$25=$75). But say the farmer gets 75 per cent of a normal crop then he or she would be paid $75 an acre.
Farmers are not allowed to collect more than 100 per cent of their crop insurance coverage.