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Farm insurer looking at more market garden help

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation exploring insurance options
The Jungle Farm near Innisfail was hammered by hail in July and August. Owners Leona and Blaine Staples said crop insurance should be extended to market garden farmers to help the industry grow. (Photo contributed)

Agriculture Financial Services Corporation is exploring ways to improve hail insurance coverage for market gardeners.

AFSC manager of insurance products and product innovation Jesse Cole said there has been a “huge amount of interest” in giving market gardeners more insurance options.

Farmers who produce major crops, such as wheat, barley and canola have their crop insurance premiums partially covered by the federal and provincial governments. Producers in those programs generally pay about 40 per cent of the premiums, said Cole.

However, the same deal is not in place for those running much smaller operations producing fruits and vegetables, often as part of a u-pick business.

Severe hailstorms this past summer, which hammered a number of market garden operations in central Alberta and elsewhere, have put the issue on the front burner.

The Jungle Farm, located north of Innisfail, hosted AFSC’s board chair and CEO and Agriculture Minister Nate Horner this summer to explain what sort of help is needed. The Jungle Farm was hit hard by two hailstorms less than a month apart causing a lot of damage to their products.

Cole said AFSC will be meeting with market gardeners and the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association in coming weeks to see what additional insurance products might work best.

“Anytime we’re designing a product or looking at enhancing a current one, we really want to do it in a way that makes it relevant for that population. What do they need in terms of risk?”

It is likely some short-term options may be available as early as next season, such as increasing maximum coverage limits for hail damage. Bigger changes will likely take some time and be rolled out later.

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