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CFA seeks risk management reform, financial aid

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture is calling for financial aid for the canola, pork and beef sectors on the heels of a federal announcement that dairy farmers would be compensated for lost market access.

“We cannot miss an opportunity to hammer down the message that we have farmers who require support now or they face the very real threat of losing their farms in the coming years,” said Chris van den Heuvel, second vice-president of the CFA.

“Not only do we need timely help for the current situation, we need to have programming available to deal with these kinds of situations in the future,” van den Heuvel said.

While it praised federal action on dairy sector losses, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said other farmers are also in danger of losing the farm.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $1.75 billion in compensation over eight years for the dairy sector in the form of direct payments.

This followed the ratification of the CETA and CPTPP trade agreements, which would see the Canadian dairy sector lose 8.4 per cent of its milk production, according to the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

“Adding these concessions to the access already granted under the WTO, it is estimated that by 2024, nearly 20 per cent of domestic demand for dairy products will be met by imports,” the Dairy Farmers of Canada said in a news release.

The CFA praised the federal government for delivering on promised compensation for the dairy sector, which had been planned in response to concessions in both trade agreements.

“However, other sectors in Canadian agriculture, such as pork, beef and canola, have been equally negatively impacted by recent aggressive trade actions,” the CFA said in an August 19 news release.

The release cited closures of the Chinese market to Canadian canola and pork.

“In these unprecedented times of loss of access to international markets, CFA feels government needs to identify a mechanism outside of the current BRM (business risk management) structure to immediately provide relief for negatively impacted producers,” said van den Heuvel.

The Manitoba Pork Council is also calling for financial help.

“We have indicated to the federal government of Canada that U.S. pork producers are being compensated for economic losses due to the current trade disputes, said Andrew Dickson, general manager of the Manitoba Pork Council. “We have asked the federal government to match the support being offered by the U.S. government to U.S. pork producers.”

Canadian pork prices are dictated by American prices, said Dickson. After China slapped tariffs on American pork imports, the U.S. pork market backed up, leading to dropping prices, Dickson said.

He said the U.S. government is recognizing that producers are hurting. “Why doesn’t our government give us something?”

Dickson said subsidies to American pork producers are creating a government-directed market, and preventing reduction of the market glut. “It doesn’t solve the problem.”

Manitoba Pork has advocated for changes to current business risk management programs, said Dickson.

“They’re disaster risk programs,” he said. “You have to lose a huge amount of money (before they kick in).”

Risk management program AgriStability pays out when an enrolled farmer’s revenue falls below 70 per cent of their reference margin. In 2013, the claim trigger was changed to 70 per cent from 85 per cent.

Dickson said Manitoba Pork has called for the 85 per cent trigger to be restored “since they dropped it.”

He said AgriStability was supposed to even out the “wild gyrations” of the market, which are so prevalent in the pork sector. Reduced to 70 per cent, the program only aids in times of disaster, said Dickson.

Dickson said the federal government has done a good job of negotiating recent trade agreements, which he said would give many opportunities to pork producers. He said producers need strong risk management programs to have the confidence to expand for future prospects.

The Canadian Canola Growers Association has also called for restoration of the 85 per cent trigger margin, said CEO Rick White.

He said the government is well aware of producers’ need for change and for assistance.

“To date we have not seen enough action,” said White. “The frustration level with farmers is climbing quickly.”

White said the federal government also needs to work to diversify markets — for instance, by increasing the mandate for biofuel. He said this would increase domestic canola use and reduce greenhouse gases.

Canada should also look at putting a trade office in Asia-Pacific to open and develop markets there, White said. This should include plant health experts to work with regulators to head off quality issues.

The CFA said it held a roundtable meeting with the federal and provincial agriculture ministers in July.

“Farm leaders from across the country outlined their predicament and the real concerns they had that their operations would not survive the coming year,” said van den Heuvel.

In an emailed statement Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada said the federal government “stands shoulder to shoulder” with farmers and will ensure they get needed support, but added it continues to evaluate the situation.

The statement cited changes to the Advance Payments Program, including the raised interest-free limit for canola, and said the program has issued nearly $322 million in advances to producers.

The statment also noted “further details” on the “up to $3.9 billion” allocated in the 2019 budget would be forthcoming and that AAFC continues to work towards diversifying markets and restoring market access to China.

About the author

Reporter

Geralyn Wichers grew up on a hobby farm near Anola, Manitoba, where her family raised cattle, pigs and chickens. Geralyn graduated from Red River College’s Creative Communications program in 2019 and was previously a reporter for The Carillon in Steinbach. Geralyn is also a published author of science fiction and fantasy novels.

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