Farmers wanting compensation for damage to agricultural operations from natural disasters will have to get provinces to ask Ottawa for it, says Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
So far, that hasn’t happened, Toews said.
“That has not been raised with me specifically,” he said after speaking to the Association of Manitoba Municipalities annual convention last week.
“That’s something the provinces will have to raise with the federal government in terms of whether that’s something they want to cost share in.”
Manitoba farmers periodically say the Disaster Financial Assistance Arrangements (DFAA) program should cover more than just property damage to their farms.
Some want DFAA to compensate producers for business interruption losses resulting from floods or other natural disasters.
That sentiment was behind a resolution passed at the recent Manitoba Beef Producers annual meeting.
Noting many farm operations need over $2 million in annual gross sales to be economically viable, it called for “the federal and provincial government(s) to re-evaluate the eligibility requirements for disaster financial assistance.”
Keystone Agricultural Producers does not have a specific position on DFAA. However, KAP policy calls for a disaster recovery program “for sectors that have experienced catastrophic losses.”
Such a program “must include initiatives that address fundamental changes to the industry structure
due to a disaster,” such as tax deferrals incurred by the forced liquidation of cattle herds, KAP’s policy handbook says.
DFAA is a federal-provincial cost-shared program in which Ottawa picks up 90 per cent of the tab when eligible losses from natural disasters run above $5 per capita.
The program pays for restoration of small businesses and farmsteads, including buildings and equipment. It does not compensate for losses covered by other government programs, such as crop insurance.
Revised guidelines on Jan. 1, 2008 expanded the definition of eligible small businesses and farms to include business owners and part-time farmers.
Disaster assistance is often a sore point with farmers who feel existing agricultural programs outside crop insurance are often slow and inadequate to help them recover from natural disasters.
The AgriRecovery program under Growing Forward is designed to deal with such situations. That happened last July when the program paid out $450 million to Prairie grain farmers unable to seed rain-saturated cropland.
But a similar request by Manitoba cattle producers has so far gone unfulfilled.
In his speech to AMM, Toews, whose mandate includes DFAA, said the program is designed “to support the province following large natural disasters rather than ongoing situations such as rainy seasons.”
But Ottawa is considering changes to DFAA criteria, following a proposal by provinces earlier this year, he said. [email protected]
“That’ssomething theprovinceswill havetoraisewiththe federalgovernment.”
– VIC TOEWS