The federal government will not be contributing to enhancements to AgriStability announced by the Ontario government last week, unless a consensus is reached to increase the compensation rate across the country, says federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

On Friday afternoon, newly-minted Ontario Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson announced the province would move ahead with increasing the compensation rate under AgriStability from 70 to 80 per cent for farmers in the province, retroactive to the 2020 growing season.

“Ontario farmers can’t wait any longer for improvements to the AgriStability program – so the Ontario government is taking action and also calling on the federal government and other provinces to step up as well,” said Thompson.

It’s not clear whether the province plans to fund 100 per cent of the top-up, or fund 40 per cent of it, based on the traditional 60/40 federal/provincial cost-sharing formula.

Minister Bibeau originally proposed increasing the compensation rate nationally from 70 to 80 per cent on a 60/40 cost-share basis in November 2020. That offer remains on the table, she says, but would still require approval from at least two of the three hold-out Prairie provinces. The federal government is not going to sign side deals with individual provinces, she says.

“By now it should be well understood that in order to change AgriStability at the national level, we need a strong majority of provinces to agree. This is how our cost-shared five-year federal-provincial agreements work. The Prairie provinces need to step up to make this happen,” says Bibeau, in a statement shared with RealAgriculture on Monday.

Thompson’s predecessor, Ernie Hardeman, tried to build a consensus among his provincial counterparts to support enhancements to AgriStability. While the compensation rate increase was not approved during his time, ministers from across the country agreed to remove the reference margin limit in late March of this year.

“I am very proud of the work I did alongside Minister Thompson’s predecessor to advocate and secure changes with all provinces and territories to finally remove the margin limit from AgriStability,” notes Bibeau.

It appears there was no discussion between Thompson and Bibeau prior to the Ontario AgriStability compensation rate announcement on Friday .

“I look forward to meeting Minister Thompson for the first time and discussing together how we can best support farmers in the short and long term,” says Bibeau.

The federal and provincial governments are currently preparing for negotiations on the next five-year agricultural policy framework, which would run from 2023 to 2028. Agriculture ministers from across the country are planning to meet in September, where it’s expected they will develop the priorities and a policy statement for the next five-year agreement.

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