Agricultural production in Saskatchewan has always depended on weather conditions that are often unpredictable, extreme and highly variable. Crop yields and quality are vulnerable to uncontrollable natural hazards, including drought, excessive rain, hail, flood, frost, snow, wind, tornado, accidental fire, damage caused by wildlife, insects, and gophers and/or plant disease.
Extended droughts can result in crop failure, scarcity of water for livestock, and inadequate pasture and feed supplies. Flood conditions may delay or prevent seeding, erode soils, contaminate water supplies, and restrict access and transportation.
Considering these weather issues together with and economic uncertainties, crop production is a high risk and often stressful enterprise. Climate change will add to these existing risks, as future predictions include longer and more severe droughts, warmer and wetter winters, and an increase in the frequency of extreme weather events. Crop insurance was developed as a way to reduce climatic and other crop production risks and to help sustain farm operations and rural communities through the good years and the bad.
The Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (SCIC) insures against yield loss whether due to crop quantity or quality. Coverage level depends upon an individual’s previous loss experience for each crop type (Figure 1).
Crop insurance was initiated in Saskatchewan on a pilot basis in 1961 and has been available throughout the province since 1972. Over the years, SCIC has extended coverage to a wider range of crops, and has refined its policies. For example, one factor used to establish premiums is risk zones (Figure 2).
The federal and provincial governments are responsible for program administration and 60 percent of the premiums while the producer pays 40 percent of the premium. In 2009/10 approximately 24,500 producers insured 25 million acres of field crops annually (72.8% of seeded land) of which nearly 400,000 acres were forages.
Given the impacts of climate change and agriculture’s dependence on favorable weather conditions, crop insurance will provide an increasingly valuable adaptation tool for individual producers to lower vulnerabilities. On the other hand, the future viability of SCIC resources and policies will be tested by major events such as severe droughts or flooding, especially if they are widespread and extend over several years.
Crop insurance and other forms of farm income support are key to sustaining and stabilizing Saskatchewan’s agriculture sector and are even more critical with the added challenge of climate change.
- Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (2010): Your Complete Guide to Understanding Crop Insurance 2010. http://www.saskcropinsurance.com/Default.aspx?DN=67b61188-b504-4220-bac1-e5fb4f3d5ee1 [accessed February 2, 2011]
- Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (2010): Annual Report 09/10. Prepared for the Province of Saskatchewan http://www.saskcropinsurance.com/Default.aspx?DN=b6b7a856-994a-434a-be7c-8b14e599dbff [accessed February 2, 2011]
- Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation (2010): Maps. http://www.saskcropinsurance.com/cropinsurance/maps [accessed February 2, 2011]