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Pressure on Prairie provinces to respond to AgriStability changes


March 17, 2021
By Top Crop Manager

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The federal government is putting renewed pressure on the governments of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan regarding changes to AgriStability. Marie-Claude Bibeau, minister of agriculture and agri-food, and Jim Carr, special representative for the Prairies, issued a joint statement earlier today asking the three Prairie provincial ag ministers to provide their response.

The changes, first proposed at the agricultural minister federal-provincial-territorial (FPT) meeting in November 2020, would eliminate the reference margin limit and boost compensation rates to 80 per cent. The costs of the program would still be split 60-40 between the federal and provincial governments. These changes would also be retroactive to 2020.

Ag industry and grower groups have raised concerns with the AgriStability program in the past due to the lack of clarity and difficulty in navigating the payout process. It was one of the major issues to be discussed at the FPT meeting, in hopes of making the program more widely used and accessible.

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The provincial ag ministers for Saskatchewan and Manitoba in particular were unsatisfied with the way in which the changes were proposed, coming on the final day of the meeting. They also criticized Bibeau for what they saw as a lack of opportunity to make or consider counter-proposals.

One of these counter-proposals would have involved the federal government covering 90 per cent of the program costs, as opposed to the 60 per cent it currently pays.

“The deadline to enroll in AgriStability this coming year is April 30, 2021. We need to implement these changes in advance of that deadline in order to encourage more farmers to sign up and increase farmer participation in the program. They are absolutely needed for the short term,” the joint statement reads.

“Discussions have started in regard to the next five-year agricultural policy framework, which begins in 2023. Through the consultation process, we will look at longer-term changes. However, consultations on longer-term fixes to the business risk management suite of programs should not come at the expense of the short-term fixes to AgriStability that farmers are asking for today.”

Two of the three Prairie provinces will have to accept the revised AgriStability terms in order for changes to be made to the program for the 2021 season.