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Monday, July 20, 2015

Alberta Court upholds denial of crop insurance on basis of false or misleading reporting

The Alberta Court of Queen's Bench recently dismissed an application for judicial review of a decision by the appeal committee related to Alberta's crop insurance program.  The regulations that govern crop insurance provide that the decision of the appeal committee is final and binding on the parties; only a challenge to the decision by way of judicial review is possible.

In this case, crop insurance denied claims by a farmer for its 2009 canola crop, its 2009 Canadian Prairie Spring wheat crop and its 2010 Canadian Prairie Spring wheat crop.  Crop insurance declined to pay the benefit to the farmer on the basis that the farmer's post harvest assessments were incomplete and inconsistent with actual crop production.  On the appeal of this denial of coverage, the appeal committee decided that credibility was an issue.  The committee found that where there was a conflict in the evidence between the farmer and the crop insurance witnesses, the evidence of the crop insurance witnesses was to be preferred.  The committee cited examples where the farmer under-reported grain sales or was not forthright about grain sales until confronted with third-party documentation obtained during the crop insurance investigation.  The committee, which consisted of five farmer members, was left with the impression that the farmer "had not been honest and forthcoming in his dealings with AFSC during the claims process and subsequent contact with Program Cross Compliance and Investigation, despite several opportunities to make full and honest disclosure of the production and sales of crops."

The Court ruled that the standard of review applicable to this judicial review was a standard of reasonableness: if the Court found that the appeal committee's decision was "reasonable", then the decision would stand.  On review of the record from the appeal process, the Court concluded that the appeal committee's decision was, in fact, reasonable, and denied the judicial review application on that basis.  In particular, the Court found that it was abundantly clear that the committee had found evidence of false or misleading reporting from the farmer.  The Court could find nothing unreasonable about that conclusion and the denial of the crop insurance claims.

Read the decision at: F Prins Potatoes Ltd v Agriculture Financial Services Corporation.