Ontario extends lost-labour production insurance

COVID-related coverage held over for 2021 program year

File photo of an Ontario cherry orchard. (UpdogDesigns/iStock/Getty Images)

A temporary expansion of Ontario’s AgriInsurance program, to cover losses caused by COVID-19-related short-handedness on the farm, will be held over.

The province and federal government on Dec. 22 announced the expansion of coverage will be extended to cover the 2021 program year — and that it will insure production of “additional commodities.”

Further details are expected to be available later in the new year, according to Agricorp, the provincial farm program delivery agency.

The insurance expansion, which was announced in July for the 2020 program year, was hailed at that time as the first such coverage of its kind anywhere in Canada. AgriInsurance contracts “normally exclude losses caused by unavailability of labour.”

For 2021, Ontario’s federal/provincial production insurance program will include “on-farm labour disruption losses due to COVID-19” as an insured peril for:

  • production loss coverage for all commodities that have a guaranteed production;
  • abandonment threshold coverage for fresh market vegetables, on an “acreage loss basis”;
  • establishment coverage for ginseng;
  • mortality loss coverage for fruit trees and grapevines, and
  • bee health.

The peril, Agricorp said, will include an eligible farmer’s “inability to attract sufficient on-farm labour due to COVID-19” as well as “illness or quarantine of you and/or on-farm labour due to COVID-19.”

But it won’t include labour-disruption losses post-harvest, such as in a packing house or processing facility — including on-farm facilities — or relating to transportation of crops. Nor will it include COVID-19-induced loss of markets, such as a lack of customers at a U-pick farm site.

Eligible farmers also “must make a good-faith effort to secure sufficient labour for the 2021 program year,” Agricorp said, adding it may ask farmers to provide information about steps taken to secure labour in the 2021 program year, relative to steps they took in previous years.

Farmers who get production insurance for the 2021 crop year will be eligible for the lost-labour coverage regardless of the peril coverage level they chose. Thus, if a farmer selected the hail-only, frost-only or hail-and-frost-only coverage option, he or she will be covered also for on-farm labour disruption losses due to COVID-19.

That said, Agricorp cautioned farmers that the added peril “will not increase the existing limits of your coverage, but will be assessed within them.”

Agricorp also reiterated that eligible farmers “must follow relevant public health requirements and practices” including those of both the province and the local public health unit.

For coverage, the agency said, it may ask a farmer “to describe the steps you took to follow these requirements and practices prior to paying an indemnity.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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