11/08/2012 01:43 EST | Updated 01/08/2013 05:12 EST

Alberta government declares hail damage to crops this year a disaster

EDMONTON - Record hail damage to crops this year in Alberta has prompted the provincial government to declare the losses a disaster, with a Crown corporation paying out $451 million to farmers.

Alberta's Agriculture Financial Services Corporation says the money will come from two insurance funds.

"It is about double the amount of damage and our losses are going to be in the $450 million range in payments to farmers for hail damage," Merle Jacobson, the corporation's vice-president of risk management, said Thursday.

"We have been offering hail insurance to Alberta farmers since 1938, and this year is the record of all time."

He said hail storms damaged wheat, barley, canola, and peas crops throughout the province on 1.6 million hectares of land between May until mid October. The hail storm season normally runs from July to August.

The corporation is paying out 11,100 claims and the final cheques should be in producer's hands by next month.

The previous top year for hail damage was 2008, when the corporation paid out $264 million on 9,500 hail damage claims.

Premier Alison Redford's cabinet passed an Order in Council Wednesday declaring the economic hardship caused by the hail storms to be a disaster under the government's Fiscal Responsibility Act.

Farmers weren't the only Albertans who felt the sting of hail damage this year.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada estimates summer hail storms caused more than $200 million damage to property in Alberta communities.

The worst of the storms roared through and around parts of Calgary on Aug. 12, pelting the ground in some areas with golf ball-sized hail.

Another serious hail storm on July 26 damaged cars and homes from Cardston to Nanton.