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Prairie Farm Leaders Agree On Issues

“It is a sign of trouble I think and market protection seems to be the issue.”

– ian wishart

Protection for farmers when they deliver grain, trade barriers, saving producer car loading sites and cattle price insurance were on the agenda when the presidents of the Prairie provinces’ three general farm organizations met in Regina last week.

Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP), the Agricultural producers of Saskatchewan (APAS) and Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP) don’t want the federal government to pass Bill C-13, amendments to the Canada Grain Act until there’s a plan to protect farmers against defaults when they deliver grain.

“Without the producer security there’s a lot of risk to our operations,” WRAP president Humphrey Banack said Oct. 28 while being interviewed with KAP and APAS presidents Ian Wishart and Greg Marshall.

Among other changes, if C-13 becomes law, grain companies would no longer have to post security to cover what they owe farmers for their delivered grain. The bill was thought to be all but dead after NDP Agriculture Critic Alex Atamanenko in April proposed a six-month delay in any further debate on C-13. But Oct. 9, debate resumed on the bill.

APAS president Greg Marshall said C-13 should not be passed until it provides for a replacement producer security program.

“This has huge implications for each and every farmer,” he said.

HUGE IMPLICATIONS

The three farm groups, along with some commodity groups, have studied the current security system and four alternatives with funding from the federal government. The groups want additional funding to explore the cost benefit of each in depth so they can recommend a replacement to Ottawa. So far the government hasn’t provided the money, which is a concern, said Banack.

“We’re trying to be proactive and we’re lacking support in Ottawa,” he said.

An insurance plan or a fund might be cheaper for both farmers and grain handlers, said KAP president Ian Wishart.

The current security system is estimated to cost farmers 23 cents a tonne. However, one criticism of the system is sometimes there’s not enough security to fully cover what farmers are owed.

Between 2002 and 2008 farmers received 77 per cent of their money after a buyer failed to pay them. Out of nine cases farmers were 100 per cent compensated in six and in one they received 99.8 per cent. In two cases farmers were not fully covered receiving just 28 and 51 cents on the dollar.

TRADE BARRIERS

Wishart said the increase in “technical trade barriers,” is a concern to Prairie farmers because they are so export dependent. The latest example is China planning to block import of Canadian canola unless it is certified blackleg free.

“They do take forever to resolve and a lot of them never get resolved to anyone’s satisfaction,” he said, even though trade agreements are supposed to protect trade. “It is a sign of trouble I think and market protection seems to be the issue.”

Farmers have the legal right to directly load grain cars, but Canadian National Railway’s (CN) decision to abandon 53 car sidings puts that right at risk, according to Wishart, Marshall and Banack.CNabandoned 55 sites in the last three years, Wishart said.CNsays most of the sites aren’t

being used and there’s a cost to maintain them, but Marshall said the railways are paid to maintain them through what farmers pay to ship grain under the cap on railway revenue.

The presidents also discussed the low returns cattle and hog farmers are receiving and the cattle price insurance program being introduced in Alberta. [email protected]

About the author

Reporter

Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.

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