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Slung mud won’t patch program cracks

“This Conservative government puts farmers first in every decision we make.”

This recent quote is from a letter by our agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz. It should be the way a government reacts to all decisions that concern agriculture in Canada. But a letter that I received from Mr. Ritz says something very different.

When the cost of production (COP) program was introduced, I tried to apply for it as a new, beginning farmer by using my 2005 and 2006 net sales (2005 was my first year of actually farming). But because I had bought some cows in December 2004 they deemed me as a farmer in 2004, so they used my 2000 through 2004 tax years, although I had never farmed those years.

Not only was I ineligible for the COP payment, but I didn’t qualify for the first Kickstart money under the new AgriInvest program. My 2004 year was also used to lower my margin for the AgriStability program as well.

So my decision to buy a few bred cows in December 2004 in preparing to start farming in 2005 has cost me money under three different programs. All of my appeals through the proper channels, including the agriculture minister, have been for nothing.

The first part of the letter from the minister pats the government on the back for introducing $1 billion to start these programs. To me, that was like rubbing salt on a cut because my cost of production in 2005 and 2006 was the same as everyone else’s, yet I received nothing.

Then he stated that “under the program authorities” – well, Mr. Ritz, you are the authority to correct mistakes, but you chose not to. You then stated “the concerns you have raised in your letter have been noted and will be considered in the development of any future farm income assistance programs.” That indicates you acknowledge I fell through a crack in the programs that you will address in the future – but you chose to leave me buried in the crack.

It’s truly sad that our elected politicians, who should be setting policy and direction to ensure fairness for all farmers, spend so much time mudslinging at each other instead of working together to make sure young farmers have a future in agriculture. Michael Draper

Lenore, Man.

Please forward letters to Manitoba Co-operator, 1666 Dublin Ave., Winnipeg, R3H 0H1 or Fax: 204-954-1422 or e-mail: [email protected](subject: To the editor)

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