Provincial forage AgriInsurance gets upgrade

Livestock producers are getting their wish on how MASC anticipates corn silage yields, among other announcements

Livestock producers relying on corn silage will soon be able to lock in insurance based on personal production history.

On Oct. 16, Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen announced individual productivity indexing (IPI) for silage corn, among a list of other feed crop insurance changes incoming for 2021.

Until now, MASC has based probable corn silage yields on a provincial average.

Why it matters: The promise of a corn silage IPI comes after poor hay last year highlighted how little Manitoba’s forage insurance programs were being used, leading to a review.

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For other crops, such as many cash crops, the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation (MASC) bases probable yield on a decade of that farm’s yield data, compared to average yields in the same soil zone and risk area.

A corn silage IPI, “has been asked for by the cattle industry for a long time,” Pedersen said.

The topic has joined a list of perennial lobby efforts from the Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) around feed crop insurance in recent years.

In fall 2018, beef producers in southwest Manitoba argued that IPIs were already available for crops with less acreage than silage corn. Producers would have also got an IPI for that same cornfield, had it been destined for a grain crop rather than silage, producers also argued.

“I can get one on lentils. I can get one on pinto beans,” Curtis Gervin, the sponsor of the original resolution argued at the time, adding that lentil and pinto bean acreage falls far short of corn silage.

“If I combine that corn, I get an IPI,” he also said.

MASC calculates IPI on a decade of previous yields, starting from two years before the current year. For crops with less than three producers in a given area, as is sometimes the case with greenfeed, MASC uses a wider region, such as all yields within a similar soil type.

MASC has periodically considered an IPI for corn silage in recent years, David Van Deynze, their VP of innovation and product support, said at the time, but added they were concerned with data accuracy.

Cash crop yields are more clearly reported and verified since they are sold, he said, while other feed crops are generally harvested in bales, which are easier to weigh and count.

“Any time that we do calculations that involve individual producers or set coverages, we need to be able to have a high degree of confidence in our calculation methods and the results that we produce for producers,” he said. “With silage corn, it’s just a bit of a challenge.”

The corporation noted that silage was more difficult to quantify compared to cash crops, where yields are more clearly reported. Other feed crops, meanwhile, are harvested in easily counted and weighed bales (not always the case in silage), MASC said at the time.

The issue sparked a successful resolution at MBP’s February 2019 annual meeting, in which membership asked MBP to lobby the province for a corn silage IPI.

Other changes incoming

MBP general manager Carson Callum noted both the promised IPI for corn silage, as well as other incoming changes to MASC forage programs.

MASC will be, “working with industry to reduce the impact of disaster years on insurance coverage” and “reduce participant burden,” the same Oct. 16 release from the province read.

MASC will also look at index-based forage insurance products, the province said. A pilot program evaluating the potential of such projects has been announced between all three Prairie provinces and the federal government.

Also new for 2021, producers can expect a higher transportation allowance, “within the forage insurance dollar value and Hay Disaster Benefit.”

The transportation allowance jump, “is another point that the cattle producers have been asking for,” Pedersen said.

“The other part of it is we’re going to work with the industry to create awareness of the entire forage insurance program, because part of the challenge we’ve had for low uptake has just been a bit of a lack of understanding of the programs that are there,” he added.

The changes come after an MASC forage insurance review was completed earlier this year.

The provincial government announced the review last year, after low yields led 18 municipalities to announce states of agricultural disaster. Forage insurance had seen little uptake from producers, Pedersen noted at the time.

The changes would, “hopefully make them more reactive and equitable for producers,” Callum said.

“That’s really positive,” he said. “We want to ensure that all BRMs (business risk management programs) continue to be adjusted and improved so producers can feel comfortable using them.”

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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