This is something farmers have been asking for, especially with the release of earlier-maturing varieties
Crop insurance on soybeans, corn, open-pollinated corn, edible beans, sunflowers and lentils is being expanded — on a test basis — across Manitoba this year.
Until now, those crops were only insurable in areas deemed to be warm enough, and with enough frost-free days. However, farmers from outside those areas have been asking for coverage, especially those growing new, earlier-maturing varieties of soybeans and corn.
The test program is being introduced because many farmers have been successfully growing those crops in non-insurable areas, said Craig Thomson, vice-president of insurance operations for the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, which administers the federal-provincial AgriInsurance program.
“If there’s a widespread abuse of good agronomics that costs the program a lot of money, then it’s going to have to be reined back in,” said Thomson. “But we don’t think that will happen.”
Coverage in the new test areas will be 80 per cent of the lowest probable yield in any of the currently insured areas. Farmers can select coverage of 50, 70 or 80 per cent of that level.
“The premium will be the same despite the fact there’s lower coverage,” Thomson said. “Farmers will have to do some thinking here before they jump in with a whole bunch of new crops.
“We’re not guaranteeing a profit.”
Theresa Bergsma, secretary-manager of the Manitoba Corn Growers Association said she wants to see more details before commenting, but added at first blush it appears to be an improvement. Corn is one of the few crops where crop insurance coverage is based on each individual farmer’s yield as opposed to using an area average. That will benefit good corn growers who have not been eligible for insurance before, she said.
Keystone Agricultural Producers vice-president Dan Mazier expects to benefit.
The change is “fantastic,” said Mazier, whose farm north of Brandon is just outside the insured area.
“There hasn’t been a system to introduce new crops to crop insurance, so it has been a disincentive,” said Mazier, who averaged about 100 bushels per acre on his 35 acres of corn last year.
Although some farmers might feel the coverage is too low, the test program is better than nothing, he added.
“We don’t want to be an impediment for new crops being expanded and producers having the ability to grow what they want with some coverage of the risk,” Thomson said.
Both soybeans and corn are gaining popularity among Manitoba farmers. A record 836,000 acres of soybeans were grown in 2012, making it Manitoba’s third-largest acreage crop behind canola and wheat. There are forecasts acreage could pass the million market if conditions are favourable his spring. Grain corn also hit a record last year, at 258,053 acres, to place sixth (barley and oats are fourth and fifth, respectively).
Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation is also increasing the dollar values on crops used to determine claim payouts in 2013 by an average of 13 per cent. Combined with an average increase in probable (10-year average) yields of 0.2 per cent, the insurance available to farmers in 2013 is increasing by an average of 13.2 per cent.
Dollar values are set by the federal government in December and represent its best guess at what crop prices will be, Thomson said.