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Farmer Optimism Wanes

Extensive flooding in Western Canada and the financial support foreign farmers get is draining the confidence of Canadian farmers, says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Its Monthly Agriculture Business Barometer shows the confidence of the agriculture sector retreated in the month of June to an index of 51.0, well below the national average of 66.4. “Given the significant challenges in the Canadian agricultural sector, such as the extensive flooding in Western Canada, it is not surprising to see optimism dip eight points since this spring,” said Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president of agribusiness.

She said the federal and provincial agriculture ministers’ gathering in Saskatoon last week was a good time to address “the problematic areas within AgriStability and make immediate improvements to the program.”

CFIB has already spelled out the serious concerns farmers have with AgriStability, which is supposed to help them cope with natural disaster and market downturns, she said. Many provincial farm economies are struggling.

Its report, AgriStability or Aggravation, said governments should play a clearer role in helping farmers manage risk. “Addressing actions of foreign governments was the top priority, but it’s pretty clear that farmers also believe government should assist in managing risks beyond a producer’s control (e. g. flooding). While government(s) cannot, and should not, be there at every turn, they do have the opportunity to fuel optimism by making these risk management tools more responsive, more timely, less complicated and more predictable.

“We are hopeful the ag ministers are also serious about inspiring innovation and creativity in the agribusiness sector,” she said. “CFIB has long called for the burden of red tape to be lifted off the shoulders of the agriculture sector, as well as (creation of ) a competitive tax environment in which farmers and agribusiness owners operate.

Ministers have been reviewing business risk management programs since July 2008. “Our members believe many changes could be implemented to improve AgriStability,” she said. “Tangible results must be delivered.”

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