Most of the unharvested, insured crop in Manitoba fields is still worth harvesting, according to the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC).
“We feel we’ve addressed the (insured) fields that everybody agrees aren’t worth combining,” David Van Deynze, MASC’s vice-president of innovation and product support said in an interview May 21.
There are anecdotal reports of farmers frustrated with MASC for not allowing them to burn overwintered crops in fields still too wet to support a combine, delaying spring seeding. But Van Deynze said MASC lets farmers decide whether to destroy a crop or try to harvest it. However, before a crop is destroyed MASC estimates how much crop is in the field and bases any crop insurance claim on that. As a result, a farmer might not be in a claim position, or if they are, the payout might be low.
Why it matters: Spring seeding was delayed this year due to cold weather and wet fields. Having to combine unharvested crops is further delaying seeding for some farmers.
“If they can’t get on there to combine then they can’t get on there to seed it either,” Van Deynze said. “If it’s canola in the swath, well then it has been cut and it’s drying almost as well as it would if no swaths were on it. It’s different when you have a big canopy on there for sure.
“It’s tough for producers, don’t get me wrong. If they were able to burn, it would be one less thing they need to do when it’s finally dry. I get the sense of urgency for sure, but at the end of the day we feel our role is to appraise the crop that is there… ”
Having grown up on a farm Van Deynze knows the hardship some farmers are facing, but MASC also has a responsibility to abide by the terms of the crop insurance contract, he said.
“We certainly try to find that balance between what we think is reasonable from a farming perspective and at the same time following the contract we have,” he said.
“If we make payments that we shouldn’t, everybody pays for that to some extent, so it’s our obligation to make sure payments are only going out where they should based on the contract we have to work with.”
Although early seeding usually results in higher yields, a number of crops seeded as of June 20 are covered by crop insurance, including wheat, barley, oats, flax, buckwheat and greenfeed.
Depending on the area the seeding deadline for full coverage on canola is June 15 (Area 1) and June 10 (Area 2). The deadlines for reduced coverage are June 20 and 15, respectively.
If farmers enrolled in crop insurance can’t seed by the deadline because fields are too wet, or unharvested because they were too wet, preventing seeding, they are eligible for payouts under the Excess Moisture Insurance (EMI) program, Van Deynze said.
“So even if you’re not able to combine this stuff until July we can still deal with last year’s claim, but you’ll be eligible for EMI insurance for the 2020 year,” he said.
“If it’s too wet to combine it’s too wet to seed, so they will have some excess moisture coverage.”
If in such a case a farmer is able to seed greenfeed before July 15 on that field they are eligible for reduced crop insurance coverage.
As of Nov. 30, 2019 there were 417,059 acres of insured, annual crops still in Manitoba fields, according to MASC records. The largest share of it — almost 113,000 acres — was wheat.
There were almost 104,000 acres of grain corn out, but Van Deynze said most of it was harvested over the winter.
The next biggest unharvested crop at almost 89,000 acres was canola.
Overwintered wheat quality suffered more than MASC expected.
“So I think a lot of the cereals crops didn’t end up getting harvested this spring,” he said. “Some did, but not maybe the percentage that we had hoped.”
However, some canola crops being harvested now are yielding well.
“There have been some mixed reviews,” Van Deynze said. “It seems like some varieties stood up a little better in terms of the quality of the grain than others, but for the most part I think lots of canola is coming off and still has some pretty good value to it.
“We’re certainly not hearing about a lot of No. 1 canola getting harvested this spring, but it’s not uncommon from what we’re hearing — and again it’s anecdotal — there are No. 2s and 3s, but in the end still hold some pretty good value at the elevator level.”