Farmers have been facing increased costs as they work on putting this year's crop in the ground.

Protecting that crop through the growing season, whether from weeds, insects, pests, disease, or the weather.

Some meteorologists are forecasting a wetter spring and summer, which is good news for many drought impacted areas across the Prairies, but can also mean an increased potential for severe thunderstorms and hail.

Ag Direct Hail's Executive Vice President, Bruce Lowe, says when you move from West to East on the Prairies, the incidence of hail goes down.

"Alberta is a province that simply has more risk (of hail) than Saskatchewan does, and Saskatchewan just on average has more risk than Manitoba. Once you get to Manitoba, you see some of the lowest hail rates on the prairies."

Ag Direct Hail is a direct online hail insurance company that has eliminated the broker or middleman.

Lowe says when they started eleven years ago, they wanted to reduce farmer costs and work directly with clients, knowing that brokers at the time were making 8 to 10 per cent commission.

"You purchase directly from us. We're a private line company, and we're going to pass the savings on to you. We've done that. We've done that very successfully. Ag Direct Hail is now one of the largest crop hail insurance providers on the Prairies. We're not the only ones online anymore, which is interesting; I guess imitation is the best form of flattery."

Lowe says with the increased costs farmers are facing and the overall economic challenges this year, they wanted to do more.

"We sat back in the offseason. We said, you know, it just feels different this year. I know farmers are a resilient bunch; there's no question. But this year, between the lower commodity prices, the higher interest rates, a lot of other headwinds. We said, What can we do? And what we decided to do is sell our crop hail insurance at rates at or below 2023 prices. Despite the hundreds of townships that we had hail in last year, not one single township is going to take an increase in our hail rates this year. We're doing that primarily to say thank you to hard working Prairie farmers. These guys and girls put quality food on our table year after year, they work tirelessly. For us to be able to sit back and say, You know what, Let's do this for farmers. It would be nice if all of their input costs, pricing, and expenses didn't have an increase. You know, obviously that's dreaming, but we're doing our part this year and we're awfully proud of it. "

He notes that when it comes down to decision-making, it's not just about price; its about service as well.

"We're awfully proud of the fact that not only do we have a superior customer service, farmers can put coverage on up until midnight central time, and the policy takes effect at noon the following day.  Occasionally, a  hiccup occurs, the credit card doesn't go through or something. The phone rings in our office at 11-11:30 at night, and guess what? Someone's going to pick it up, and someone's going to help you. Someone that's directly affiliated with Ag Direct, that works for Ag Direct. We don't use any outsourcing, your going to talk to someone from Ag Direct that's going to help you resolve any issues. "

Lowe says they have a stable of very professional, committed, and experienced adjusters, and they're single focus is to put a check in our customers hands that fairly represents their loss. 

"It's that simple. Why shouldn't it be? You have a claim; you paid us in good faith. We need to pay you in good faith. And our guys and girls are going to go out there and do a very thorough job in inspecting the crop. "

He points out that they are now going into their 11th season and have probably handled about 6,000 claims, and out of that have maybe had five claim settlement refusals. 

"We've only had five of our customers over the years take us to arbitration. We're awfully proud of that, and that means that we are doing the right things. You know, farmers get it; they know how much damage is out there, and they want to be paid fairly, and that's what it's all about."

Farmers can visit Ag Direct Hail and tour the site as a visitor and check rates and coverage options.

To hear Glenda-Lee's conversation with Ag Direct Hail's Executive Vice President Bruce Lowe click on the link below.