Getting crop insurance payments out quickly to eligible Manitoba farmers is a top priority for the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) in the wake of the most challenging harvest in years.
That includes, where applicable, advancing claim payments to farmers who still have unharvested crop and crop insurance claims haven’t been finalized, David Van Deynze, MASC’s vice-president of innovation and product support told the Keystone Agricultural Producers’ advisory council meeting here Oct. 25.
“We are going to try to make as many payments as we can this fall,” Van Deynze said. “We understand there is a cash flow crunch.”
However, Van Deynze said advance claim payments won’t likely be made if there’s still crop out, and there’s uncertainty the farmer will be in a claim position when all the details are in.
“I keep saying there’s nothing worse than having an AgriInsurance claim you have to pay back,” Van Deynze said. “So we’re going to try and minimize that as much as we can, but at the same time try to get as much money to flow as we can… ”
Why it matters: Farmers are faced with the arrival of winter and bills coming due as a tough harvest has seen quality downgrades and plenty of crop stranded in the field.
MASC has advanced crop insurance claim payments for years, but normally it was after the crop was harvested or the fate of the unharvested crop was clear, Van Deynze said. This year is more challenging because with so much unharvested, he said.
It’s further complicated because some farmers harvested enough crop they might not be in a claim position despite having unharvested crop.
“I’m not going to stand up here and say everything is going to go tickety-boo and we’re going to be friends with everybody, Van Deynze said. “I don’t think that’s realistic.
“There is going to be friction for sure.
“We’re going to struggle on what the current yield of the crop is (in the field). Farmers are going to see it one way and we’re going to see it a different way.”
The same is likely when assessing yields of unharvested crops next spring.
Van Deynze stressed farmers should submit their Harvest Production Reports to MASC by this year’s Dec. 2 deadline, even if they aren’t done harvest, because it drives the claims process. (Dec. 2 is also the deadline for changes to 2020 Excess Moisture Insurance.)
He also emphasized farmers must contact MASC before doing anything to their crop, other than harvesting.
“We will try to appraise that crop (in the field) because it still forms part of your claim calculation,” Van Deynze said. “Whatever is, or isn’t there, is something we need to see.”
MASC never tells a farmer whether they can or can’t destroy a crop, Van Deynze later told reporters. It tells the farmer what it believes the value of the unharvested crop is and the impact it will have on a payout, if one is triggered. It’s then up to the farmer to decide to harvest or not.
If what the farmer harvests is worth more than an MASC estimate, the payout is adjusted accordingly.
Some unharvested crops are clearly worthless now, Van Deynze said.
“We’ve seen a number — mostly cereal crops — that have been down since late August and there is a matt of new, green growth coming through (the swath) and it’s anchored and locked down in the dirt,” he said. “I don’t care how nice the weather is, you’re not putting that through a combine anymore. If you’re in a situation like that it’s a good time to give us a call.”
Many cut dry beans and frozen, unharvested potatoes are in the same predicament, he said.
But as of Oct. 25, some unharvested crops still had value and might even by next spring, Van Deynze said.
“In our minds, and hopefully in farmers’ minds, they are not a complete loss, or at least not yet,” he said. “If things don’t improve they could easily turn into that, but we don’t believe they are there yet.
“We believe the sprouted wheat, oats, have some value, especially in a year when we are so short of feed… ”
With more than a million unharvested acres, MASC has prioritized its crop adjusting process to focus on crops not worth harvesting, Van Deynze said.
Crops that may have some value are lower on the list, unless the grower wants to bale or fence the field for feed, Van Deynze said.
Harvest is also behind for later crops such as soybeans, corn and sunflowers, but it’s too soon to panic about their fate, Van Deynze said.
Sometimes farmers deliberately leave corn standing all winter to dry down, he said.
“We’ve had (soy)beans harvested in the spring that have stood up really well,” Van Deynze said. “I am quite certain we will not write them off until spring… Depending on snow cover and everything else we don’t think soybeans are automatically done because they stood out over winter. Not yet anyway. The winter might change that in any given year.”
Several farmers expressed concern about harvesting soybeans in the spring fearing it would pack moist soils ruining the land for seeding.
“Sooner or later if you want to put a crop in the field you’re going to have to put some heavy equipment on it,” Van Deynze told reporters later. “Again, we will never tell a producer he has to combine it. Our job is going to be to try and say what we think would end up in a combine if they did combine it.”
When Van Deynze spoke, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development (MARD), estimated 77 per cent of Manitoba’s annual field crop harvest was complete.
A week later (Oct. 29) an estimated 85 per cent of the crop was harvested, which left about 1.5 million acres to be done.
Based on a three-year average 94 per cent of harvest is off by Oct. 29.
Based on MARD’s estimate and MASC’s insured acreage report, almost 500,000 acres of soybeans and nearly 322,000 acres of canola were still to be combined as of Oct. 29.
An estimated 64 and 90 per cent of soybeans and canola had been harvested by then.
Cereal harvest was nearly wrapped up, with an estimated 86,000 acres of spring wheat to come off.
Harvest was continuing last week thanks to freezing temperatures allowing combines to travel with less risk of getting stuck.