National farm groups are beginning to gain traction with a united voice calling for better business risk management (BRM) programs for producers.
The AgGrowth Coalition (AGC) is a response to national farm leaders recognizing, about a year ago, that the federal and provincial governments were avoiding a serious discussion about overhauling AgriStability and the other business risk management programs as part of upcoming Agriculture Policy Framework, due to start in April 2018.
The farm groups had little success in getting recognition of the BRM shortcomings even though the economic potential of the agri-food sector was growing. During this time, the Barton Report appeared urging the federal government to fully recognize the potential for the agri-food sector to lead economic growth in eight key sectors.
This year brought the federal budget setting an ambitious target in agri-food export growth, and then the Powerhouse Report from the Canadian Agriculture Policy Institute and the Public Policy Forum, which put more ideas on the table for boosting agriculture.
The farm groups quietly created AGC in January to press governments on a BRM review because of declining farmer participation in AgriStability and other programs. However, the AGC remained in the background until a May meeting of the federal and provincial ministers that saw little movement other than Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal calling on his fellow ministers to launch a full BRM review.
It fired off its first public statement expressing disappointment “that federal and provincial governments have not yet made a clear commitment to undertake a comprehensive review of business risk management (BRM) for Canadian farmers.”
Before the meeting, it asked Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay to share its request for a BRM review of business risk management programs. After the meeting, it said, “it remains unclear whether a BRM review will in fact be part of the next Policy Framework.”
AGC will continue to seek a commitment on the review in advance of this summer’s meeting of the federal and provincial ministers at which time they hope to finalize the next APF.
So far AGC consists of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Grain Growers of Canada, Grain Farmers of Ontario, the National Sheep Network, and the Canadian Horticultural Council.
In addition to farmers dropping out of BRM because it wasn’t protecting them from fluctuating commodity prices, CFA president Ron Bonnett says the next iteration of BRM needs to be able to deal with trade disruptions such as the termination of NAFTA. It also needs to have better provisions for dealing with weather-created disasters.
“We need to get the right mix of programs for the future,” he said.
Mark Brock, chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario, said the lack of a clear government commitment means “we as farm groups need to continue our work with government in driving towards comprehensive modernization of our BRM programs, ensuring they keep pace with the 21st century business of farming – this isn’t about new money, it’s about more effective use of the existing funds allocated for risk management.”
Jack Froese, president, Canadian Canola Growers Association, said, “Farmers are frustrated with the current state of risk management and want to see government and industry work together to find the right fit. Agriculture, like every sector, is continually changing and adapting to remain competitive and sustainable.”
Alvin Keenan, president of the Canadian Horticulture Council, said, “Solid risk management is needed to help farmers navigate the risks that are beyond their control, while also providing a foundation to make the investments required for continued success.”