Quebec’s Parti Quebecois government has carried out a pre-election pledge to scrap changes to the formula by which income stabilization payments are triggered for the province’s farmers.
The "25 per cent" measure, which Jean Charest’s former Liberal government put in place in 2010 to trim the province’s ag income stabilization (ASRA) program, involved a new cost-of-production model based on an average from the top 75 per cent of the province’s farms in terms of performance, rather than from all Quebec farms.
The 25 per cent measure was expected to translate to a three per cent cut overall in farmers’ ASRA-insured income, refocusing the program’s payouts on improving farm efficiency.
"We wanted to abolish this unjust measure imposed by the former Liberal regime that was strangling Quebec’s agricultural producers," Agriculture Minister Francois Gendron said in a release Thursday.
The PQ government in October asked the provincial ag funding agency, la Financiere agricole (FADQ), to go ahead and reimburse farmers for the 25 per cent measure for the current fiscal year, which the agency has done, he said.
The Charest government in 2010 had set up a five-year, $100 million transition fund, which was earmarked to help about 2,500 of the province’s 16,000-odd ASRA-eligible farms, mostly small livestock-based operations, that were to be most affected by the 25 per cent measure.
That fund, Gendron said Thursday, will remain in place. The fund’s programming had included interest relief on cash-strapped farms’ loans and support for financial analysis and planning and business counselling.
The 25 per cent measure, when introduced, was the target of a number of heated protests, including a short-lived but much-feared pledge from the province’s general farm organization, l’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA), for its members to refuse snowmobilers access to rural trails on their land in response.
Que. moves ahead with ASRA transition funding, Oct. 26, 2010
Que. farmers grant snowmobilers access in ASRA scrap, Dec. 17, 2010
ASRA-qualifying acres raised for Que. grains, May 4, 2011
Quebec ag minister unseated in PQ minority win, Sept. 5, 2012