25 February 2011

Record crop insurance coverage offered in 2011

Record crop insurance coverage offered in 2011 : Saskatchewan farmers will see record coverage levels from this year's Crop Insurance program, the provincial government said Thursday. The unseeded acreage benefit, which helps farmers faced with excess moisture on their land, is also being upped from $50 to $70 per eligible acre, in the wake of one of the wettest years on record.

"While we hope that last year's conditions aren't repeated, we are preparing for potential moisture issues and unseeded acres," Agriculture Minster Bob Bjornerud said as the details of the 2011 insurance program were released.

Coverage levels are increasing from 2010 by $42 per acre to $173 per acre on average -the highest average coverage level ever offered, Bjornerud said.

The provincial Crop Insurance budget is also at a record high of $161 million for 2011, compared to $127 million in 2010 and $155 million in 2009. The premiums paid by farmers are also going up on average because of stronger crop prices, the minister said.

Producer premiums in 2011 will be $8.45 per acre on average, up from $6.98 an acre in 2010.

"It's a real positive that our grain prices are improving but at the same time the premium that producers pay will be up somewhat," Bjornerud said.

Another new feature starting in 2011 will allow young farmers starting a new crop insurance contract to have access to improved coverage and reduced premiums based on their family farming history, rather than having to use area averages.

"We recognize experience and management capabilities learned on the family farm are passed down to the next generation so we're improving Crop Insurance to reflect this," Bjornerud said.

Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities president David Marit said in a press release that the program improvements are welcome, citing in particular the change meant to help farmers deal with soggy conditions.

"After last year's record rainfall, we are pleased to see an increased unseeded acreage benefit," Marit said.

But the NDP Opposition said the program changes fall short, with party leader and agriculture critic Dwain Lingenfelter suggesting that some funding could have been made retroactive to the "disastrous" 2010 crop year.

"We're pleased to see new money to support agricultural producers across our province but it simply isn't enough or what many were expecting," Lingenfelter said in a news release. "2010 saw some of the heaviest rains and poorest yields in a generation yet none of what was announced today represents retroactive coverage for those losses." The deadline for customers to apply for, make changes to or cancel their Crop Insurance contract is March 31.

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