The virtual Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) agriculture ministers meeting recently concluded with a press conference featuring Ontario agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-food Marie Claude Bibeau.

Hardeman made the collective provincial position clear that all ministers would go back home and review the “last minute” federal proposal.

RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney chatted with Minister Hardeman about the plan going forward and whether he is accepting of Bibeau’s proposal at the conclusion of the meeting.

Listen to the full discussion Haney had with Ontario Agriculture Minister Ernie Hardeman. A summary is below the player:

Have you had time to review the proposal with members of your cabinet?

He’s reviewed it and it was just received. The issue has been discussed many times with 21 meetings but this was the first time the federal government proposed a solution to the problem. Some of the provinces wanted more time to consider what was coming forward. He was reasonably happy with the proposal, and thinks there is something that they can work with. Ontario will be looking to support something of this nature. Minister Bibeau suggested she was still open to changes.

Have you talked to the Prairie agriculture ministers since the conclusion of the meeting?

He’s hopeful that all the provinces are looking at it positively and will think about what can be accomplished together. At the meeting it was agreed that everyone would go home and review it. The most positive solution is that each province comes back with what they would like changed. All farmers have come forward with what they want and what they need and he is hoping that they can get there.

Would it have been better if there was a deadline?

Everybody knows the urgency of the situation and everyone will work at it as if “time is of the essence” — we can not help the farmers until we come to an agreement, he says.

Why do you think this meets the needs of Ontario growers?

It is important to recognize that Ontario wanted the trigger and the compensation moved to 85 per cent and removal of the reference margin but realize that everything has a cost value to it. This is the balance that Minister Bibeau has found. Our producers will be happy getting what we can going forward, he says.

Do you think ministers can fix the current program while also starting to work on the new framework that is due in 2023?

He believes that we have to do both. The redesign of the program long-term is an ongoing process. We have to look at all four, or at the least three of the components, and see if they are doing what they need to be doing. Some of the provinces are talking about an insurance program to cover off three of the components.

This agreement ends in 2023 and Hardeman does not believe that Ontario producers can wait two or three years to solve the problems that were created a year ago or two years ago. The current program is not working for producers and they have not been signing up because they don’t believe the likelihood of a payout. That the payout is not good enough to cover the cost of hiring a consultant to fill out the paperwork. We need a short-term solution instead of waiting two years to make the new program, he says.

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