Several of Canada’s largest farm organizations are united in calling for a comprehensive review of the government’s business risk management (BRM) programs for farmers. In government lingo, the BRM acronym refers to AgriStability, AgriInvest, AgriRecovery and AgriInsurance (which includes crop insurance) — all programs that are intended to help farmers manage against volatile weather and markets.
The future of these programs was one of the main items on the agenda at the meeting of federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) agriculture ministers in Ottawa last week, where Ontario Ag Minister Jeff Leal proposed taking 12 months to review what how the government participates in farm risk management.
Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the National Sheep Network, and the Canadian Horticultural Council are asking all the ministers to agree to a review, with the current Growing Forward 2 ag policy framework set to expire in March 2018.
“If you were to ask anyone from Western Canada, Atlantic Canada or Ontario, whether they’re in livestock or crops, if you ask them if the current suite is working, a lot of them would say on the crops side that yes, the AgriInsurance part is working, but anything after that doesn’t work. If you talk to livestock people, a lot of them are struggling with the functionality of AgriStability,” notes GFO chair Mark Brock in the interview below.
“This isn’t about new money, it’s about more effective use of the existing funds allocated for risk management,” he said, following the ministerial meeting on May 11.
Rather than making adjustments to reference margins for AgriStability and tweaking the existing programs, Brock says the entire way that government allocates funds to BRM programs needs to be re-evaluated.
“The big thing everyone wants to do is jump to a conclusion of what the new programs should look like. What we really have to do is step back and ask ‘what are we trying to achieve with these programs?’ And then once we decide what that policy objective is from an industry standpoint and a government/society standpoint, then we can start working backwards to determine what program would reflect the desired outcome,” he says.
“The federal government just wants to make some small changes and call it good. We’re saying no, let’s have a comprehensive review of the programs and then decide what those programs should look like to achieve those objectives.”
The ag ministers are aiming to conclude negotiations on the next ag policy framework in July (to take effect April 1, 2018), leaving little time for a review of BRM programs. Brock says farm groups would accept a 12-month extension of the status quo to allow for a thorough examination of why and how BRM programs are delivered.
“If there’s a written commitment by the FPT group to have this comprehensive review with a discussion about changes to the existing suite, then I think none of us would be disappointed to limp through for another year with the current suite of programming,” he says.
Brock took a break from planting on Monday to discuss what Grain Farmers of Ontario would like to see happen with business risk management: