Crop insurance claims could be as bad as 2002 when they hit $1 billion, says Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen. (File photo from The Canadian Press)

Crop insurance claims could reach $1 billion: Alberta agriculture minister

Dry conditions will hurt yields across the province

Alberta farmers’ crop insurance claims could hit $1 billion, says Alberta Agriculture and Forestry Minister Devin Dreeshen.

Dreeshen tweeted on Thursday morning that crop insurance claims “will be comparable to 2002, when farmers and ranchers in Alberta collected about $1 billion after a significant drought.”

Adjusters have helped farmers submit about 300 claims and another 300 were expected to be submitted this week, he said.

The Alberta government is working with Alberta Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), which provides farm insurance to many Alberta producers, local municipalities and commodity groups to provide producers with the supports they need, he said.

Pine Lake-area beef producer Kelly Smith-Fraser remembers 2002 all too well and this year looks similar.

Hay was being cut in her fields just a few days ago and she was describing to her mother the conditions on the ranch.

“I was telling her he’s cutting through a slough that I think the last time we would have been able to do anything through that slough was 2002.”

Smith-Fraser, who is past-chair of Alberta Beef Producers, said that organization and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association have approached the government to lobby for financial help under disaster recovery programs. The association joined forces with groups representing Canadian grain and canola farmers calling for drought-related adjustments to crop insurance.

Alberta Beef Producers held a virtual town hall on Tuesday offering information on dealing with drought.

The Beef Producers and Cattlemen’s Association teamed up for a virtual town hall to discuss drought on Monday and a similar one was held the following day. The Beef Cattle Research Council has also organized a July 29 webinar in which animal health experts will talk about dealing with drought.

In a statement on its website, AFSC says it recognizes that many producers have been affected by the hot, dry conditions.

“AFSC continues to monitor the situation throughout the province as the 2021 crop year progresses. We anticipate a number of claims over the coming days and week as this situation continues to unfold.

“Our team of adjusters are familiar with the current conditions, and they are working to resolve claims as quickly as possible.”

Claims are ranked and resolved in order of priority, says AFSC.

“Top priority claims include those claims where clients have indicated they need to allow cattle to feed on the crop immediately.”

Last week, Dreeshen said Alberta is working with the federal government on finalizing details on an AgriRecovery program.

“I want to assure producers across Alberta that we understand the severity of this prolonged period of extreme dry weather and we are doing everything we can to ensure you receive the support you need,” Dreeshen said last week.

AgriRecovery is a cost-shared program that provides emergency support in cases of natural disaster with the federal government taking on 60 per cent of the cost with the remainder covered by provinces. Provinces submit requests to the federal government to activate the program.

A July 17 agriculture moisture situation update on Alberta Agriculture’s website said soil moisture reserves remain well below normal.

There are “many widely scattered and relatively large areas estimated to be near one in 5-year lows, and about 70 per cent of Alberta’s agricultural areas experiencing less than once in six- to 12-year lows.”

“Areas with low soil moisture reserves will need frequent rains of at least five millimetres or more to sustain crop growth.”

A map showing spring wheat soil moisture reserves relative to long-term normal shows most of central Alberta is low, moderately low or very low. Only isolated areas in the Rimbey and Camrose areas show near normal conditions.

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