Canada’s Agriculture Ministers urged to pick up the pace on improvements to Business Risk Management Programs

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Source: Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions say federal, provincial and territorial governments should accelerate their efforts to improve Canada’s Business Risk Management (BRM) programs, including an overhaul of the AgriStability program.

The commissions were hopeful that more progress would have been made in improvements to AgriStability at this week’s meeting of federal, provincial and territorial (FTP) Ministers of Agriculture in Ottawa.

There is a broad consensus among Canadian farm groups that AgriStability coverage should be adjusted to cover losses starting at 85 per cent of historical reference margins from the current level of 70 per cent. Farm groups have also advocated for an end to reference margin limits. The commissions say the changes are needed to ensure the program is serving its intended purpose in supporting farmers when situations beyond their control cause serious damage to their income.

While the commissions are encouraged that ministers have acknowledged the need to assess the effectiveness of BRM programs and review options at a meeting in April 2020, they say the deficiencies of AgriStability have been thoroughly studied, are well known and action is needed.

The commissions are concerned that changes will not be enacted for the 2020 program year and will cause more uncertainty for Alberta farmers who have experienced a challenging harvest, trade disruptions, a CN Rail strike and are facing the prospect of a federal carbon tax on the cost of drying their grain on January 1st.

“The time for a responsive AgriStability program is now,” says Hannah Konschuh, vice-chair of the Alberta Wheat Commission and a representative on the National Program Advisory Committee, a group in place to advise the federal government on the effectiveness of the BRM suite of programs. “We are faced with different challenges farming in 2019 and beyond.”

“This year has unfortunately demonstrated why changes to AgriStability are urgent and necessary, particularly for younger farmers who may not have the equity to withstand the multiple challenges we see in the marketplace today,” says Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair.

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