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Options program out of money

There are a lot of disappointed farmers across Canada after the federal government ran out of money for the highly touted Farming Families Options Program.

Chuck Strahl, who was agriculture minister when it was announced in July 2005, said it would help farmers to boost their incomes. They had to take courses to improve their management or skills to qualify for up to $15,000 per individual or $25,000 per family.

By the beginning of the second year of the $240 million two-year pilot program, civil servants in Ottawa realized it might run out so they reduced the amounts available by 25 per cent to $11,250 per individual and $18,750 per family.

They still ran out. Participants for 2006 got only half what they anticipated and then, months later, they got a nine per cent “top-up” to bring their compensation to 59 per cent.

To be eligible, farmers had to take a course in farm business assessment or agricultural skills development or some equivalent acceptable to program administrators.

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