MASC has come out with its list of program changes for 2020, and some sectors may have reason to celebrate.
The list of changes, presented at Ag Days by Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development Minister Blaine Pedersen, includes a higher price option for high-value crops, expanded portfolios for organic and novel crop insurance and more safety net for extended grazing.
Canola, including canola bound for specialty oil markets, and field peas can now be insured with a contract price option. The option will bridge the gap between regular coverage based on a commercial price, and the higher return producers might have expected from a buyer, the corporation says.
The corporation says the option will involve a new premium to reflect the higher dollar values.
“This will help ensure that higher-value crops are not underinsured and will help stabilize the availability of crops important for their processing here in Manitoba,” Pedersen said.
David Van Deynze, MASC vice-president of innovation and product support, says producers have been requesting the better price option for several years, finally leading the corporation to roll it out this year.
“A little bit is about opportunity and about the right time,” he said. “Sometimes it has to do with the right combination and the right number of producers asking for things to bring the right level of awareness to it, and then other times it’s related to budget opportunities because all of these things cost money for governments as well as producers so those things all have to fit together at the right time.”
Charles Fossay, president of the Manitoba Canola Growers, welcomed the change.
The producers’ group has previously asked MASC to look at better pricing specifically for specialty canola oil, he said, citing markets such as Cargill’s high health oil or Viterra’s Clearfield canola contracts.
“There’s quite a difference between the commercial price for non-identity-preserved canolas and those that are preserved for specialty markets, so we felt that crop insurance had to basically provide a better coverage on those crops,” he said.
There are still some details to be hammered out, he said. It is still unclear, for example, how much of the premium that farmers get from those contracts will be reflected in their coverage, he said.
Manitoba Canola Growers initially pushed for a totally separate program for specialty oil canola.
“Crop insurance wasn’t prepared to do that right away, but we have convinced them to at least recognize the higher value of that crop,” Fossay said, noting that the group will meet with MASC in the coming months to discuss other issues, such as hail insurance premiums on pod shatter-resistant canola.
The organic sector will also check an item off its wish list. MASC will now offer organic insurance for fall rye, bringing the eligible crops list up to seven. Last year, MASC added barley, field peas and hemp to the list. Prior to that, the corporation only offered organic insurance for oats, flax and all wheat types.
MASC estimates that about 3,000 acres of organic fall rye go into the ground each year.
Novel crops will also get a guard against bad spring weather. MASC has expanded its novel crops insurance to include a reseed benefit. Insured acres can now claim 25 per cent of their per-acre dollar coverage if crops don’t come up by June 20.
MASC introduced the novel crops program in 2018 to cover farm practices like intercrops as well as new and less popular crops not otherwise covered under AgriInsurance, such as quinoa.
Van Deynze said the reseed benefit is part of efforts to hone the program.
“It’s part of how new programs typically evolve,” he said. “We haven’t had novel crop insurance for very long, so it’s been a couple of years now and we learn as we go.”
He added MASC recognized an area where there’s some specific risks that producers would like to see better coverage, and some of it is around the establishment of new non-traditional crops.
“We just saw an opportunity here to improve the program and I hope we’ve done that,” he said.
MASC says 20 producers and 3,302 acres were insured under novel crops insurance last year.
Coverage levels have also changed. Producers could choose between $120-, $160- and $200-per-acre coverage when the program was first introduced. This year, producers can choose between $150-, $200- or $250-per-acre coverage.
Farmers fighting off wildlife will also get a safety net this year. MASC has extended wildlife damage compensation to grazing forages and strawberries. Strawberries will be eligible for both plant and production loss, MASC says, while the grazing benefit will extend to bale and swath grazing, as well as any standing annuals meant for grazing, including corn.
Producers will be able to claim 45 per cent of the value lost before cattle get to that feed. MASC has cited the rising economic and environmental appeal of extended grazing for the decision to extend the benefit.
The livestock sector has been pushing for extended wildlife damage insurance for several years. The Manitoba Beef Producers has argued that wildlife damage insurance might help remove one obstacle to convincing producers to try extended grazing.