MERRITT – Small-scale meat producers across the province are resting easier following Peace Hills General Insurance’s announcement in April that it will cover farmgate abattoirs.
“It’s very good news. We’ve been working on this for over two years,” says Julia Smith, executive director of the Small-Scale Meat Producers Association. “We had been back and forth with other insurance companies and were really getting nowhere.”
The shift came when SSMPA contacted Crystal Piggott, a client executive with BFL Canada in Salmon Arm.
“She approached Peace Hills and we have been able to put together a package,” Smith says. “Knowledge was a key hurdle. People don’t understand what is going on in our industry.”
But Crystal Piggott, whose father was a butcher for 30 years, did understand.
“When Julia approached me, I knew what she was talking about,” says Piggott, who received the additional background from SSMPA she needed regarding current farmgate slaughter regulations.
“When I learned that all licence holders must take a SlaughterRight course and that they are subject to yearly inspections, I was able to have a company agree to add a small liability onto a farm policy to accommodate those small farms that do their own slaughter, cutting and processing,” Piggott says.
Piggott has been insuring farms for 25 years, but she says there have always been two obstacles: no on-farm slaughter and no meat sales direct to consumers.
But Edmonton-based Peace Hills was prepared to listen, and take into account the small number of animals on-farm processors are handling.
“They agreed to insure
on-farm slaughter with a farmgate licence and we developed a second farm and liability policy to accommodate farmers that want to sell their own meat,” Piggott says.
Piggott is now working with an inspected poultry abattoir that saw their premiums skyrocket this year.
“We have a better solution for abattoir businesses as well,” she says.
Piggott says she wanted to make sure there weren’t any gaps in the coverage package.
“The problem is if you are doing meat sales, for example, and it’s not listed in your policy, that invalidates your entire coverage,” she explains.
SSMPA members get a discount.
“I’ve already been able to send a number of our members over to Crystal and it more than covers your membership fees,” says Smith. “I think this will lead to more farmgate licences when producers realize they can be insured.”
The change will help a restructuring of the province’s meat inspection regime in October 2021 deliver on its promise of greater slaughter capacity in the province.
Prior to the deal with Peace Hills, insurance companies had declined coverage or charged exorbitant premiums that outstripped returns from on-farm processing. (The most generous class of farmgate licences allows farmers to process no more than 25,000 lbs of live weight.)
“Unfortunately, producers quickly discovered that this legal activity was virtually uninsurable,” says Smith. “And if they wished to continue
on-farm slaughter, they would be in the untenable position of not having insurance.”
SSMPA asked the BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food to conduct a survey of producers regarding the problem which could be used to approach insurance companies but were told it didn’t have the resources. Instead, the province provided $2,600 to support an SSMPA survey.
It attracted 114 respondents, of which 88% identified as meat producers who were selling direct to consumers.
“We found that 35% of those surveyed had no insurance at all,” says Smith. “Affordability was the biggest obstacle, followed by finding a provider and obtaining the desired coverage.”
Now that Peace Hills has stepped up to the plate, those numbers are improving and she expects slaughter capacity to grow.