By Connor Lynch
ST. JOHN’S — Although the federal government, the provinces and territories could not agree on a new package of farm support programs, they did agree to review what’s working and what isn’t in the Business Risk Management (BRM) programs. That’s a move that Ontario’s two largest farm organizations, the Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, have been calling for.
“Overall, there are some details that have to be ironed out, but we’re pretty happy with everything,” GFO chair Mark Brock told Farmers Forum.
Brock said that the comprehensive review of BRM programs, including AgriStability, AgriInvest, and AgriInsurance, was necessary because producers weren’t using some of the programs. “Some of the parameters made them not effective,” he said. Crop insurance should be the model for the review, said Brock, because “it’s a program that works. You see a pretty high participation rate because it’s effective.”
There was also disappointment in the new framework. AgriInvest, a program that lets producers set aside money for a rainy day, had its maximum level of payment cut down to $10,000, from $15,000. “With the exception of crop insurance, AgriInvest is the only program, within the suite of risk management programs, that works well for our farmer members and we hope for much more appropriate and effective steps forward through this review process,” Brock said.
Brock attributed the cutback to the fact that about $2 billion is currently sitting in AgriInvest accounts across the country. The government’s perspective is “if there’s that much in the accounts, is it being used for what it’s supposed to be,” said Brock. However, he said that the GFO would have preferred to have seen the programs left alone until the consultation was done.
The new, five-year, $3-billion framework, called the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, takes effect April 1, 2018 and will replace Growing Forward 2. It has six focus areas: Science, innovation and research; markets and trade; environmental sustainability; processing and value-added agriculture; public trust; and risk management. The new program framework was signed on July 21 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, by the federal and provincial agriculture ministers.
The current BRM programs will stay in place while they’re being reviewed. That review finishes in July 2018.