Farmers Must Decide Soon

With the deadline fast approaching, Alberta farmers and ranchers have only a few weeks left to decide whether to insure their hay and pasture this year.

The cutoff date for enrolling in perennial crop insurance programs is February 28, reports Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), the provincial Crown corporation that administers the program.

 

It can be a difficult decision to make so early in the year, says Gordon Hutton, a Provincial Forage Industry Specialist with the Alberta Ag-Info Centre. “It’s soil moisture during April and May that makes or breaks a forage crop.”

You can’t simply look out the window in February and count on “a good crop year” just because there is decent snow cover or “normal” soil moisture conditions, warns Hutton.

Soil Moisture Specialist, Ralph Wright, agrees. “The correlation between soil moisture conditions now and the summer ahead is at best a shot in the dark,” says Wright, who tracks soil moisture reserves across the province for Alberta Agriculture and Food (AF).

Soil Moisture Levels Can Change Quickly

Most of Alberta is currently seeing near normal to high soil moisture levels – with the exception of the Peace Region, where most areas have moderately low to extremely low soil moisture reserves.  

“It’s not reliable to base crop insurance decisions on current conditions because things can change very quickly,” says Wright. “You can have excellent soil moisture reserves now and then hit a month of dry weather that puts you right back to zero.”

Rather than trying to out-guess the weather to pick and choose the best years to buy perennial crop insurance, farmers should consider it a long-term risk management tool, says Ted Darling, a Business Risk Management Specialist with AF. “It’s there to protect them each year in the event of unpredictable catastrophes like the 2002 drought” and to help keep their operations stable from one year to the next.

Subsidized Premiums

 The provincial and federal governments recognize the risks producers face, so they help by covering more than 50 per cent of premiums and all administration costs for crop insurance in Alberta, explains Merle Jacobson, Vice-President of Business Risk Management for AFSC.

“We have 45 local insurance offices and field staff across the province to help producers make the best choices for their operation,” says Jacobson, adding there are a variety of programs and options to choose from. All farmers with 20 acres or more of hay or pasture are eligible for perennial crop insurance.

Farmers Must Decide Now

“Farmers can contact our call centre at 1-888-786-7475 to find the nearest AFSC office and get a personalized quote over the phone.” But all new applications and any changes to existing policies must be completed before February 28, he stresses.

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