NDP leaders team up to push AgriStability changes

Provincial conservatives have delayed and acted in half-measures, says NDP leader Kinew

File photo of Manitoba NDP leader Wab Kinew speaking to reporters on June 30, 2020.

Prairie NDP leaders banded together to call on their provincial governments to stop wasting time and agree to the full suite of AgriStability changes the federal government has offered.

They’ve seen Prairie conservative premiers “delay, delay, delay,” said Wab Kinew, leader of Manitoba’s opposition New Democratic Party.

When they’ve acted “it was only a half measure,” he added.

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley and Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili joined Kinew in a virtual news conference on April 22 — a move they said was a first.

In late March, provincial leaders agreed to partial changes to the AgriStability risk management program after longstanding efforts by agriculture groups pressuring them to make a deal with the federal government.

The provinces agreed to remove the reference margin limit from the program, which limits the allowable expenses which can be used to calculate a farmers’ reference margin — a measurement of a farm’s average production margin.

However, not all producer groups were satisfied.

“Removing the reference margin limit does very little for pork producers,” said Canadian Pork Council chair Rick Bergmann in a March 25 Western Producer report.

“We expected that, in these difficult times, the Prairie provincial ministers would have considered the challenges faced by pork producers.”

Pork producers saw prices plummet after COVID-19-related processor closures caused backlogs of pigs, particularly in the U.S.

The NDP leaders called on the Conservative provincial governments to also agree to increase the AgriStability compensation rate to 80 per cent from 70 per cent “so the full impact of the AgriStability program can be realized,” said Kinew.

“No one says that the program is perfect, but the new agreement is better than the one that’s in place now,” Notley added.

The NDP leaders said the cost of the additional change would be relatively low. Notley said it would require an investment of between $7 million and $8 million for Alberta. Meili estimated the cost at $10 million.

Kinew did not say how much he thought the move would cost Manitoba, only that it could hardly be more than what it’s costing to mail out education property tax rebates.

The Co-operator has previously quoted ag minister Blaine Pedersen as saying the combined changes would cost the province $15 million.

About the author

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Geralyn Wichers

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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