November 30, 2020 By Fruit and Vegetable
On Nov. 27, Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture wrapped up their two-day virtual conference. Their discussions focused on the future of Business Risk Management (BRM) programs, balance in the retail-supplier relationship, and a look ahead to the design and development of key priorities for the next agricultural policy framework.
The ministers discussed options for short-term improvements to AgriStability. The federal government tabled a proposal (detailed below) that the provinces and territories will consider in more detail:
- The removal of the Reference Margin Limits (RML);
- No change to the AgriStability trigger of 70 per cent, but an increase of payment levels from 70 to 80 per cent;
- Both of these changes would be retroactive for 2020.
The government’s analysis has shown that the removal of the RML would increase support for farmers in need across Canada by over 30 per cent, and that both of the changes above would increase spending by over 50 per cent.
Farmers and stakeholder groups, like the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), have been asking for meaningful changes and alternatives to the current risk management approach, especially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic exposed some of its shortcomings.
The CFA noted in a recent press release that these programs have been under review for years, and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, is the first agricultural minister to deliver real action on this issue since 2013 by putting forth this proposal.
“The Government of Canada is ready to support our producers as they continue to feed us,” Bibeau said. “I am determined to continue working with my provincial and territorial colleagues to find common ground and make meaningful improvements to the financial safety net.”
The FPT ministers agreed that programs need to improve to better target emerging risks threatening the viability of farms, which may include options based on insurance principles. Moreover, programs should be simple, predictable, and respond quickly for producers, while treating farms fairly and equitably. No consensus on how to move forward was determined, but the ministers plan to continue this discussion at their next meeting in July 2021.
Ministers also took the opportunity to look further ahead as they launched discussions for the design and development of the next agricultural policy framework to follow the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which will come into force on April 1, 2023. They noted the importance of recognizing regional differences and shared national objectives within that policy statement. The ministers also reviewed the lessons learned from a number of one-time initiatives to support producers and processors throughout the pandemic.
The FPT ministers discussed the concerns of processors, producers and independent grocers regarding increased retailer fees on suppliers and the need for balance in the supplier-retailer relationship, while also ensuring that Canadians continue to have access to a reliable food supply at affordable prices.
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