This week federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture met face-to-face for the second time this year. Their goal from the one-day meeting was to improve support for Canadian producers.

During the course of the day, a small change to the AgriStability program was announced which is that private insurance won’t be accounted for when it comes to the Business Risk Management (BRM) program. These changes are effective for the upcoming year, as it would be “hard for the farmers to subscribe for insurance to a year that is over.”

“It’s more of a new opportunity for the coming year for them to subscribe for an additional insurance to top up the AgriStability program,” says Canada’s Agriculture Minister, Marie-Claude Bibeau, during a media callback.

In addition, due to the amount of paperwork that goes along with the application, the minister announced a pilot project targeted at making the process much easier, by using tax return information. Manitoba and those in the Maritimes will be the first to try out the new simplified way of applying, with other provinces and territories to follow suit once measures are in place. The federal government administers the program in these provinces.

“This was a timely and productive meeting for the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Agriculture Ministers group. We made solid progress on several important issues for the agri-food sector and our farmers,” says, Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs for Ontario.

When asked about changing reference price margins under the program from 70 per cent 85 per cent, something agriculture groups have been asking for, Bibeau says she’s reviewing all facets of the BRM, before any changes will be made. However, when asked what it would cost if it were to go back to 85 per cent, she says it would be roughly $300 million.

Ministers have been asked to report back by April with an evaluation of the impact of changes to the reference margin limit and changes to eligible expenses under AgriStability, and have been asked to list options to make the programs more effective, agile, timely, and equitable for producers.

Other topics discussed during the meeting were the FPT-industry work on the prevention, preparedness, response and recovery planning to African swine fever (ASF). According to a news release, ministers agreed on the importance of strong biosecurity protocols to prevent ASF from entering Canada and since the ministers’ last meeting in July, Canada has signed zoning agreements with the U.S. and the EU and continues to engage other trading partners to allow for trade to continue in the event of an outbreak.

Labour shortage issues, interprovincial trade, international trade, mental health, and animal activism were also on the agenda throughout the day.

Their next meeting is set for Guelph, Ont., in July 2020.

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