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Alberta Farmers Hope Crops Avoid Hail Damage This Year

18 June 2013
Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

CANADA - As crops start to grow and another hail season begins, farmers across Alberta are hoping to be spared from the kind of record hail damage that battered crops in every part of the province last year.

“Last summer was the worst hail year we’ve ever seen. There were only 11 hail-free days all summer, from early June to mid-September,” says Brian Tainsh, manager of on-farm inspections with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation (AFSC), the Crown corporation that administers crop and hail insurance in Alberta on behalf of the provincial government.

Hail pounded crops in every region of the province from Foremost to Fort Vermilion, triggering more than 11,000 claims and record payouts of almost C$450 million through AFSC’s Straight Hail Insurance program, and the Hail Endorsement rider that many farmers add to their crop insurance each spring.

“There wasn’t one AFSC office across the province that didn’t have hail claims reported,” says Tainsh, noting the previous record hail year in Alberta was 2008 when hail claims totalled more than C$265 million.

What this year’s hail season will bring is still anybody’s guess, says Tainsh. He points out hailstorms in late May and early June have already triggered claims in the Vulcan and Lethbridge areas of southern Alberta – although crops at such early stages of growth have great potential to recover from hail damage.

Environment Canada Meteorologist Dan Kulak says it’s too early to tell what the summer holds. “Alberta is a hail capital, so we know we’ll get hail. The question is how much. A lot depends on what happens through the rest of June and how much moisture we have going into July. The wetter it is, the greater likelihood of hail,” he says, noting high humidity last summer was a key factor that contributed to so many hailstorms.

Mr Kulak points out there are three ingredients for hail – heat, surface moisture or humidity, and a trigger. “The sun is often the day-to-day trigger. It shines on the mountains, warming up the air, which then rises and often produces storms that move eastward from the foothills. If that warm air collides with cooler air moving in from the mountains, the storms can be intense. Alberta is designed for hail production and the mountains play a key role,” he explains.

Tainsh says an increasing number of farmers are choosing to ‘Auto Elect’ Straight Hail coverage at the same time they purchase crop insurance in April. “It gives them a two per cent premium discount and protects their crops against hailstorms early in the season.”

That early protection is important, he says. “If farmers wait and their crops are struck by hail before they’re insured, any fields with more than 25 per cent damage become ineligible for Straight Hail Insurance for the rest of the season.”

TheCropSite News Desk

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