Prince Edward Island’s response to COVID-19 includes plans to pump up its farmers’ coverage level under the federal/provincial AgriStability income stabilization program.
The P.E.I. government on Thursday announced a support package for farmers including $8.8 million over two years in additional business risk management (BRM) program funds.
That includes paying the provincial portion of the costs to raise the coverage level for farmers enrolled in AgriStability program to 85 per cent from the current 70 — and removing the program’s reference margin limit, which “will have a positive impact on the livestock industry,” the province said in a release.
The province said it will also offer farmers interim AgriStability payments of up to 75 per cent of their estimated final payments — up from the usual interim payment limit of 50 per cent — to “get funding into producers’ hands in a timely manner.”
Combined, those two moves are expected to provide farmers with an estimated $5.6 million in support over the next two years, the province said.
P.E.I. also pledged a 10 per cent discount on the farmer share of AgriInsurance premiums, which alone is expected to save participating farmers about $3.2 million over two years.
Apart from the BRM funds, the province said it will also work with potato growers and processors to put $4.7 million toward “shipping and storage costs of potatoes for processing,” so as to help mitigate a surplus resulting from “market conditions related to COVID-19.”
Specifically, potato producers this year face an indefinite dive in french fry sales as restaurants have halted dine-in service due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though industry groups have noticed an uptick in potato chip sales since social isolation became widespread.
“The current global situation is creating uncertainty for our farm community and immediate support is necessary for the sustainability of our agriculture industry and the long-term strength of our food supply system,” provincial Ag Minister Bloyce Thompson said in the province’s release Thursday.
“By supporting the industry, and our farm families and workers, our province can retain economic strength and prepare for a return to full economic activity.”
Improving AgriStability’s coverage and removing its reference margin limit have been an ask among several Canadian farm groups since well before the current pandemic.
While minor tweaks have been made at the national level, other provinces have also recently moved unilaterally, albeit temporarily, to boost AgriStability.
British Columbia in February raised the program’s coverage level to 80 per cent when margins fall below the 30 per cent payment threshold, and also eliminated the reference margin, for the 2019 and 2020 program years.
Saskatchewan on Friday made a move similar to one of P.E.I.’s, offering producers the opportunity to seek interim AgriStability payments of up to 75 per cent of estimated final payments for the 2020 program year. — Glacier FarmMedia Network