Manitoba and Saskatchewan still considering accepting federal AgriStability offer

At least two of the three Prairie provinces that have been holding out on accepting the federal government’s offer to make changes to the AgriStability business risk management program say they’re still considering the proposal.

In mid-January, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau gave the provinces a deadline for the end of the month to indicate where they stood on the offer she made at the federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) agriculture ministers meeting in November 2020. The offer includes dropping the reference margin limit and boosting the compensation rate to 80 per cent, increasing overall AgriStability payouts to farmers by an estimated 50 per cent, according to the federal government. The changes would be funded on a 60/40 federal-provincial basis.

While Ontario, Quebec, and B.C. support Bibeau’s proposal, two of the three Prairie provinces must also agree to reach the required consensus for it to go ahead.

With the end-of-the-month deadline passing on the weekend, at least two of the Prairie provinces have not ruled out accepting Bibeau’s offer.

“Saskatchewan continues to consider the federal government’s proposal to remove the reference margin limit and increase the compensation rate to 80 per cent,” said a statement from Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Agriculture on February 1. “The cost of the proposed enhancements, under the funding model put forward by the federal government, is considerable in Saskatchewan given the scope of our industry. We also understand the issues producers are facing. This is an important discussion and we need to ensure we give it appropriate consideration.”

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit (pictured above) met with Minister Bibeau to discuss the AgriStability proposal last week, where he reiterated an earlier request to hold another FPT meeting to discuss the issue.

“We have been advised by Minister Bibeau’s office that a follow-up FPT meeting will take place in the near future and we look forward to the meeting,” said Saskatchewan’s ag ministry.

Saskatchewan’s neighbour to the east is also still weighing the proposal, according to a succinct statement from a spokesperson for Manitoba Agriculture Minister Blaine Pedersen.

“The AgriStability program changes are still being considered by Manitoba,” they said, in an email to RealAgriculture on February 1.

Alberta Agriculture Minister Devin Dreeshen has been the most consistent critic of the federal proposal among the provincial agriculture ministers, rather lobbying for a margin-based insurance program in the next five-year FPT agricultural policy framework starting in 2023. Dreeshen’s office has not yet responded to a request for comment on the end-of-January deadline.

Minister Bibeau’s office, meanwhile, says she is willing to give Manitoba and Saskatchewan more time if they need it, and that she is willing to meet with her provincial counterparts to further discuss the AgriStability proposal, but that a FPT meeting has not been scheduled, as of February 2.

Updated Feb 2 following communication with Minister Bibeau’s office.

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