Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Reciprocal insurance for turkeys finally coming

Turkey producers in Ontario are finally getting a reciprocal insurance program to deal with losses associated with outbreaks of avian influenza.


The federal government is contributing up to $559,285 to get it going.


Neil Ellis, parliamentary secretary to Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau, said “this funding has supported a new risk management tool to help farmers remain resilient and to cover losses and the risk posed by avian influenza.” 


As matters stand now, turkey farmers are only eligible for assistance provided when the Canadian Food Inspection Agency orders a flock destroyed. That does not cover losses when nearby farms are put under quarantine and can’t move any birds, feed or equipment in or out, nor does it cover industry-wide losses when countries impose trading bans on Canada.

This new insurance, once fully implemented, will be administered by the Poultry Insurance Exchange Reciprocal of Canada.

It comes well over a decade after Deborah Whale campaigned for reciprocal insurance for all poultry and livestock. Almost all commodity organizations failed to step up because of the costs involved.

Whale’s tireless campaign led to insurance-industry leaders undertaking risk assessments to determine premiums and other conditions that might apply. It also involved establishing a ladder of insurance from on-the-ground companies that would sign up farmers to national and international firms that underwrite the smaller local firms and at the end a government backstop.

Among the costs the mandatory turkey plan will cover are cleaning and disinfection, feed disposal and veterinary services, Ellis said.

Ontario’s last bout with avian influenza occurred in 2015 and farmers learned just how difficult and demanding it can be to meet Canadian Food Inspection Agency standards for cleaning and disinfection before they were allowed to repopulate.

Eight farms were placed under quarantine that April after an outbreak of bird flu was discovered on a turkey farm near Woodstock.

One of the farms quarantined was a hatching egg farm for the broiler chicken industry; it was on the opposite side of a road to a quarantined turkey farm.


The quarantine zone also proved difficult since it included Highway 401 and meant feed, hatchery and egg trucks, plus those hauling poultry, had to detour.


“It’s been a real challenge for us over the years, so that made it very evident that we really needed this insurance in place,” said Brian Ricker, chair of Turkey Farmers of Ontario. “It’s extremely valuable to have these measures put in place.”


The funding for the insurance program is through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership’s AgriRisk Initiatives: Administrative Capacity Building Stream. This stream provides funding to implement and test new financial tools.

I still don't understand why all commodities don't have reciprocal insurance plans. Things would certainly look different if we had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease or African Swine Fever.