Manitoba’s Hay Disaster Benefit has been activated for the second year in a row after forage once again fell short of expectations in 2019.
Estimated payments are far in excess of last year. On Jan. 10, the provincial and federal governments said they expected payments to exceed $5 million for losses suffered in 2019, compared to last January when governments estimated about $3.2 million in cash payments was on its way to farmers for the previous year. The program received an estimated 1,000 claims out of 2018.
“We recognize it has been a difficult harvest for many farmers in Manitoba,” Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in a release. “The Hay Disaster Benefit is one of the ways our government is supporting farmers to protect their businesses against weather-related risks, such as this forage shortfall.”
The news may come as little surprise as producers struggle after the feed struggles of 2019.
Poor feed emerged as one of the defining stories of the livestock industry, with producers feeding on pasture already in midsummer, first hay cuts delayed by weeks while still falling short, and second cuts failing to appear at all in some regions.
Almost all of agricultural Manitoba also qualified for the federal livestock tax deferral program again in 2019, a program that requires hay in a region to fall to half or less its normal harvest.
Last year was the first time the Hay Disaster Benefit was activated in Manitoba since its launch in 2014.
The benefit is ingrained with AgriInsurance for those registered with MASC’s select and basic hay insurance policies. Producers are automatically enrolled in the benefit when they sign up for one of those policies and premiums are cost shared between the federal and provincial governments, according to information put out by the province. The benefit activates when at least 20 per cent of policyholders fall to less than half their normal long-term forage harvest, and pays a producer $40 for every tonne they fall short of their coverage level.
The province also promised a forage insurance revamp last year, citing low producer uptake with the current program. Producers complained that the current programs are ill suited to highly variable hay land that may be difficult to benchmark.
MASC reported 1,237 hay insurance policies last year, although a representative from the corporation said those numbers may not reflect all forage-related programs.
Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen expected the forage overhaul to come up in November 2019 during meetings at the Association of Manitoba Municipalities conference.