New Survey Devastatingly Critical Of AgriStability

Anew survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business reveals deep unhappiness among producers with AgriStability, the country’s major farm income stabilization program.

Nearly 60 per cent of CFIB agr ibusinesses surveyed expressed dissatisfaction with the program, calling it too complicated, expensive, unpredictable and just plain ineffective.

Twenty-seven per cent of respondents said they were “very dissatisfied” with AgriStability, while 31 per cent said they were “somewhat dissatisfied.”

The results, based on a recent poll of nearly 1,100 CFIB agribusiness members, paint a picture of a program that simply does not meet farmers’ needs, says a report titled “AgriStability or Aggravation?”

“AgriStability as currently designed is not providing an adequate long-term solution to Canadian producers,” CFIB said in releasing the results last week.

The survey reflects a “glaring frustration” with Canada’s key farm business risk management program, it concluded.

CFIB claims a membership of 105,000 small-and medium-sized businesses, including 7,200 agri-businesses, not all of which are actual farms.

The survey results parallel long-standing complaints by farm groups, including Keystone Agricultural Producers, about AgriStability, a margin-based program that deals with losses of more than 15 per cent in a producer’s average margin from previous years.

AMONG THE CFIB’S FINDINGS:

Producers who need the most help from the program get the least, especially livestock producers.

Payments are inadequate. Just 34 per cent of respondents said their payments enabled them to cover their margin losses.

Sixty-five per cent of producers surveyed rated the predictability of payments as poor.

The average producer spends $1,984 a year to participate in AgriStability, twice what he or she spent on CAIS, its unpopular predecessor.

The paperwork is burdensome and too complicated. As a result, only 11 per cent of farmers say they have a good understanding of the program. As one respondent put it: “I have no idea how some of the numbers are being generated and neither does my accountant.”

The five-year reference margin is unfair to producers, especially hog and cattle farmers, who have suffered several straight years of margin declines. Said one producer: “The program as it exists does not cover continual disasters and steady declining incomes.”

When producers do qualify for payments, they arrive long after losses are incurred. Some producers reported waiting two years for a payment.

CFIB makes a number of recommendations to improve AgriStability, including less paperwork, fewer regulations, more transparency and greater predictability.

Canada’s agriculture ministers are currently reviewing business risk management (BRM) programs, including AgriStability, under the Growing Forward agricultural policy framework. Ministers will receive an update report at their annual meeting July 6-8 in Saskatoon. The current five-year Growing Forward program expires March 13, 2013.

In a statement, CFIB said governments have reviewed BRMs since July 2008 but “producers have yet to see any meaningful changes to these programs.” [email protected]

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