Producers are waiting for details of the province’s promised forage insurance review.
The province announced the review last year as producers came off another disappointing grazing season and were facing the prospect of feed shortages and high feed prices.
Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen says he wants to get to the bottom of the historically low uptake of MASC’s forage programs. The corporation reported about 1,200 policies in 2018, although it also suggested that number might not reflect all hay and forage programs.
“Why aren’t producers insuring and does the program need to change?” Pedersen said in late January. “It’s all part of business risk management, so we will be looking at that and we will be making an announcement on that fairly soon.”
MASC is currently setting up the review, he said.
Pedersen said he could not currently give a timeline on when the province hopes to complete the review or when any changes suggested by the review might be translated into policy.
“Give us some time on that,” he said. “It’s already January. Are we going to make it for this year? I don’t know. It depends on what we have to do.”
Manitoba Beef Producers president Tom Teichroeb said the review came up during MBP’s last meeting with the province.
He said there are parts of the program that function well, such as insurance on top-quality “select” hay, something that’s had “solid” coverage. But less premium hay is where things start to fall apart, he said.
“When you start going down the list and you start going into the basic hay forage insurance program, there’s some significant issues with that,” he said.
Teichroeb highlighted insurance issues with poorer-quality hay, a product that he says still plays an important role in producer feed plans.
“It seems like the forage insurance components there are virtually unresponsive,” he said. “So that’s where we’re hoping that the province is going to pay a lot of attention.”
At the November meeting of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, farmer and Ste. Rose du Lac Mayor Rob Brunel pointed to insurance shortfalls on more marginal forage land. That land is highly variable and therefore difficult to benchmark, he argued.
MBP has highlighted both timely response and affordability among its priorities. In a year like 2019, Teichreob suggested, advances or considerations for producers looking to source alternative feeds might help ease financial strain.
“With the minister giving specific direction to have a closer look at this, I am hopeful that we’re not paying lip service to this, that we’re actually going to get somewhere with this,” he said. “It is our responsibility to communicate and it is the responsibility of government and policy-makers to look at these pieces that are not functioning and make them something that is.”