Ontario to insure for crop loss due to lack of labour

AgriInsurance offering hailed as a first in Canada

Ontario’s federal/provincial AgriInsurance program has been temporarily expanded to include coronavirus-related labour shortages as a covered cause for crop loss.

Producers already enrolled in an eligible production insurance plan and hit by crop losses due to labour disruptions during the 2020 growing season will be able to get further insurance coverage, the Ontario and federal governments said Thursday.

Specifics weren’t immediately available Thursday, but the governments said the coverage will insure those enrolled against “inability to attract sufficient on-farm labour due to COVID-19” and “illness or quarantine of on-farm labour and the producer due to COVID-19.”

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Farms growing fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, melons and peaches are “labour-intensive and highly dependent on seasonal agricultural workers,” the governments said.

The COVID-19 pandemic “has interrupted regular flows of worker travel and has resulted in some gaps in labour availability,” including COVID-19 outbreaks among several farms’ seasonal workers.

Farmers whose COVID-19 related labour disruptions are having an impact on crops are expected to notify Agricorp, the provincial farm program delivery agency, “as soon as possible.”

The Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association on Thursday hailed the new coverage as “the first of its kind in Canada,” noting it was “developed and rolled out at a speed and urgency that is highly unusual for new safety net measures.”

Doing so, the OFVGA said, “was only possible by using an existing program like crop insurance with its yield data and underwriting/adjustment processes.”

The association said it “recognizes the importance of applying the lessons learned from this unprecedented new coverage, to extend it to the rest of the edible horticulture sector.”

OFVGA is “committed to working towards the goal of extending these important assurances to all growers, including those not presently covered under crop insurance,” OFVGA chair Bill George said in a separate release.

“By enhancing AgriInsurance coverage to include labour shortages due to COVID-19 for eligible farmers, we are directly responding to their requests for support and protecting Ontario’s agri-food sector so it can continue producing the food our province needs,” provincial Ag Minister Ernie Hardeman said in the governments’ release.

The federal government noted it had pledged in May to work with provinces to “explore possibilities” for AgriInsurance expansion to include labour shortages as an eligible risk for the horticulture sector.

“I congratulate Ontario for being the first province to take this important step that recognizes the hardships Ontario farmers and food producers have faced because of worker shortages, and gives them the added support they need,” federal Ag Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said in Thursday’s release. –– Glacier FarmMedia Network

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Dave Bedard

Editor, Daily News, Glacier FarmMedia Network. A Saskatchewan transplant in Winnipeg.

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