Saskatchewan looks to unearth more organic crops data

Farmer Types on tablet computer with combine harvester in the background Photo: Thinkstock

By Karen Briere
OrganicBiz staff

Regina – The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp. would like more information from organic growers to make sure the program suits their needs.

Dale Knouse, SCIC regional manager in Saskatoon, said the corporation has contracted SaskOrganics to do a monthly price survey so that it has more data.

He said organic growers often insure their crops under the conventional program to avoid higher premiums. However, the corporation then has less information available.

With organics there seems to be some times where there isn’t a lot of pricing data at all on certain crops. – Dale Krouse

“Even with some of our fall surveys with the conventional program, we need to do price surveys to determine what quality factors to be put on the certain grades, and that’s becoming even more and more difficult as time goes on,” he told a workshop.

“With organics there seems to be some times where there isn’t a lot of pricing data at all on certain crops.”

SCIC has had a separate organic insurance program since a pilot began in 1990. About 375 producers insure more than 250,000 acres a year.

The most common coverage choice is the base price option, which is a price published each March from a January forecast for the fall. Knouse said about 80 per cent select this option.

Producers can also choose from the low price option, which provides the same yield coverage but at a price that is 15 per cent lower to reduce premium costs.

Organic growers can also sign up for the contract price option, which allows them to insure their crop for the actual price on a signed contract.

Knouse said SCIC uses factors developed over the last 20 years to establish organic prices that are higher than conventional prices.

For example, organic wheat and durum prices were 1.9 times over conventional from 1995 to 2011, flax was 2.6 times higher, oats 1.8 and lentils 2.5.

He said this is the best officials can do without more price data.

Knouse said premiums are 25 per cent higher for organic crops based on historically higher claims.

To calculate premiums, SCIC uses a simple calculation of premium rate percentage multiplied by the yield guarantee multiplied by the price.

For example, a five per cent premium rate times a yield guarantee of 20 bushels per acre at $10 per bu. results in a premium of $10 per acre.

As with the conventional program, the producer is responsible for 40 per cent of the premium, while the federal government pays 36 per cent and the province pays 24 per cent.

Knouse said producers who are deciding whether to insure a crop as organic or conventional should keep in mind the organic reseeding or establishment benefit that is automatically offered.

For example, a crop that becomes so weedy that the producer wants to take it out of production can be removed and reseeded to a green manure or a cover crop.

“The crop must be destroyed and reseeded to qualify,” he said, adding that the reseeding must be done by July 15.

Establishment benefits are $25 per acre for cereals and flax, $40 for peas and $35 to $60 for lentils.

He also reminded organic producers that conventional crop insurance doesn’t cover losses that would have been prevented with conventional management, such as excessive weeds.

Producers who are transitioning from conventional to organic production must use the conventional program until they are certified.