Avague promise about livestock insurance in last week’s throne speech has Manitoba cattle producers hoping it’s the kind of insurance they have on their wish list.
Producers want to insure for price, not production, said Major Jay Fox, Manitoba Beef Producers president.
MBP favours a voluntary program with a guaranteed level of protection against sudden and unexpected dips in market prices, similar to one currently operating in Alberta, Fox said.
The only difference is that the program would cover cow-calf producers, not just feedlots, which is the case in Alberta, he said.
The Nov. 16 speech from the throne to open a new session of the Manitoba legislature said farmers want “predictable, common-sense programs to help manage risk in their farm businesses.”
It noted Manitoba has the highest participation rate (over 80 per cent) in crop insurance of any province in Canada.
Then it added: “Our government will introduce further improvements to this system, including introducing new insurance products to assist sectors of the industry who have not traditionally accessed these programs.”
Producers take that to mean livestock insurance.
Fox called livestock insurance “pretty darn important” to cattle producers. But he said it was important to distinguish between price insurance and product ion insurance.
Manitoba Beef Producers is not keen on insuring cattle against lost production because that could turn into just another variant of crop insurance, said Fox.
Instead, MBP wants a program that allows producers to buy price insurance at various coverage levels over differing periods of time.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association also supports a national cattle price and basis insurance program as a risk management tool to shield producers from volatility in the marketplace.
Fox said MBP would like government to cost share premiums with producers until enough of them sign up to make the program self-supporting.
The Growing Forward agricultural policy framework already provides for a national livestock production insurance program to insure producers against lost production, primarily mortalities.
But it has yet to be implemented because of difficulties in developing a model with a risk level low enough to be viable.
Rob Brunel, Keystone Agricultural Producers president, said he spoke with Agriculture Minister Stan Struthers after the throne speech to find out what “new insurance products” means.
Struthers referred to insurance for cattle, hogs and bees (which are classed as livestock) but was not specific, said Brunel.
“He didn’t really go into any detail about what they were actually thinking.”
Brunel speculated livestock insurance could be a separate business risk management program under AgriStability rather than AgriInsurance.
A national BRM review is considering that approach, with price risk insurance as a possibility, he said.
“They are looking at all options at the national level and obviously at the provincial level.”
Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation this past year offered a pilot project to help producers protect livestock from feed shortages. Under the program, producers contract for cattle to graze on pasture for a certain number of days. If the number of grazing days is fewer than contracted for (because of drought, flood or other natural event), payments are triggered. However, the program is not true livestock production insurance.
The throne speech mention of new insurance products may also refer to an all-risk mortality insurance program which the hog industry is developing (see related story page 6). [email protected]
– MAJOR JAY FOX, MBP