Plans Underway to Improve Forage Insurance Programs

The cattle sector is hoping satellite technology will be the answer for providing forage insurance comparable to how multi-peril insurance works for grain farmers.

Collaboration is occurring between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the three prairie crop insurance agencies, Canadian Cattle Association, Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association and Global Ag Risk Solutions in an effort to make satellite-based forage insurance a reality.

Global Ag Risk Solutions or GARS is known for its margin-based insurance offering for grain producers. In recent years, it has expanded into data science and analytics and is doing the work to refine satellite imagery into a usable insurance product.

The current forage rainfall insurance program in Saskatchewan has been widely criticized. The insurance is based on rainfall data from weather stations that can be 30 or more miles from the forage being insured.

Damon Johnson, the director of strategic projects for GARS says the satellite technology isn’t meant to measure rainfall. It measures the vegetative index and compares to the historical norm.

A lot of factors go into plant growth in addition to rainfall. Did late spring frosts affect growth? How much snowmelt infiltration occurred? Were rainfall amounts timely? What were temperatures like?

Johnson believes that by measuring vegetative growth rather than just rainfall, the insurance should be much more relevant:

 A critical aspect is localized detail. Rather than relying of data from a weather station many miles away, Johnson says the imagery can capture a relatively small area containing your actual land.

Of course, all this high-tech wizardry is only impressive if it actually works which means matching the vegetative index information to what producers actually see on their land. Johnson says with lots of ground truthing they are in the 90 per cent accuracy range.

  The final report to the group from GARS is slated for January. If all goes according to plan, a pilot project will the launched in 2024 with possible roll-out of an insurance offering in 2025.

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