Calgary

Farm insurance claims increase as hail chews up southern Alberta crops

Severe weather is taking a toll on some Alberta farmers this growing season with insurance claims being dominated by hail damage.

More claims this summer than 2012, which was a record year

Storm clouds were building over much of north and central Alberta Wednesday morning as an intense low pressure system moves across the province. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

Severe weather is taking a toll on some Alberta farmers this growing season with insurance claims being dominated by hail damage.

Stephen Vandervalk grows wheat, barley and canola near Fort Macleod and is the vice president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers' Association in Alberta.

He said about half of his farm has been hit by hail, and that barley and peas are especially susceptible to that kind of damage.

"It's a very stressful thing for farmers. You can have your whole year's work wiped out in literally five minutes," Vandervalk said.

Southern Alberta has been walloped with hail over the past 30 days, and it's hitting local farmers hard.

"It's been basically the last three or four years that we've been seeing hail really kick up."

He said farmers can choose how much hail insurance to buy, which can help to mitigate financial losses.

"As you see the crop form throughout the year, [you] can say, 'Hey my crop is worth this much,' so you can insure for that much."

95% of claims hail-related

A spokesperson for the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation, a provincial crown corporation, told CBC News the majority of the claims are coming out of the Lethbridge and Medicine Hat area.

They have been hit with "everything from tennis ball to golf ball-sized hail," Nikki Booth explained.

Booth said the majority of claims are emerging from the southern part of the province as of July 25. After that date, claims arising from the Parkland area including Lacombe, Ponoka and Red Deer make up the majority.  

She said a string of storms started just after the May long weekend.

As of July 25, 5,800 claims were filed in Alberta and approximately 5,500 of those are the result of hail damage. (Patrick Sullivan)

"As of July 25, we had about 5,800 claims. Of that, approximately 5,500 of those are the result of hail damage," Booth said.

The number of claims this year are slightly ahead of 2012, when they paid out about $450 million.

"However that doesn't necessarily mean the dollar value will be same," she said.

"It's definitely been a challenging season for producers. We've seen hail damage up north as well and even in the central part of the province. I think there's been producers all across the province that have been impacted by the severe weather that we've seen this year," Booth said.

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