Glacier FarmMedia – Members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food heard testimony from young farmers during a recent virtual meeting.
Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum past chair Paul Glenn told members there is “nothing more important” than business risk management (BRM) programs to those starting out in the industry, but the outlook to bring such people into agriculture remains challenging.
Glenn said improved BRM programs could “awake the sleeping giant that is agriculture in Canada” but programs offered by the government, such as AgriStability, are “nothing short of confusing.”
“There’s no doubt that some of the programs are a bit confusing and I think there could be a marketing push to show there are programs out there for young farmers,” he said, noting it is “unfortunate” when he talks to young farmers unaware of what programs are available to them.
He echoed industry-wide calls for a simplified formula for determining payments under the program, and said Ottawa should consider raising the amount it contributes for young farmers in matching funds under the AgriInvest program.
Glenn also said BRMs need to be redesigned to better support the diversity of operations seen in Canadian agriculture.
“When you’re a young farmer trying to mitigate your risk by doing multiple things, you’re almost punished for doing multiple things rather than just cattle or calves,” he said, citing concerns diversified operations are less likely to qualify for BRM programs.
Julie Bissonnette, regional representative of Ontario and Quebec for Canadian Young Farmers’ Forum, said AgriStability “isn’t very reassuring” to young farmers because it requires them to endure significant losses before offering any support.
She also lobbied the MPs to consider subsidizing participation in the suite of BRM programs for young farmers by eliminating certain enrolment costs, like administrative fees. Bissonnette echoed Glenn, claiming most young farmers don’t use BRMs “because they don’t understand them.”
In order to attract young farmers into the industry, changes are needed to ensure young farmers “feel supported,” she said.
Bissonnette said particular focus should be given to companies in their first five years of operation.
“A young farmer starting, the better his cash flow is the better his business will be,” she said, saying any support is welcomed. “Anything that can help us with cash flow, like rebates on administrative fees or contributions, can help.”
She noted that because the majority of BRM programs are paid for by federal and provincial government, the “risk could be shared” among them in offering additional support to young producers.
Bissonnette also touted the strength of supply management’s benefit to young farmers, saying it offers some level of stability even in volatile periods.
“For a brand new company, supply management is a good thing and we need to keep it with all of its strength,” she said.