Farmers Left to Mop Up Policy-Driven Losses as Government Cuts Safety Net Programs

(Saskatoon) - Friday’s announcement of the revised Growing Forward 2 Business Risk Management (BRM) programs, the cost-shared federal-provincial policy framework, has two significant changes: a loss level trigger for AgriStability that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for most farms to obtain support under the program; and a clear decision by governments to seek out private insurance options to fill the gaps in public farm safety net programs. 

National Farmers Union President, Terry Boehm said, “From these changes, along with the ongoing destruction of institutional arrangements that have protected farmers, it is increasingly clear that the current government’s intent is to abandon public support for the agriculture sector, and instead let those with the most market power determine the shape and goals of Canada’s food and agriculture system.” He added, “By going along with the federal government’s proposals, provincial governments have also signalled that they are not interested in the vibrancy of the agricultural community, nor does it matter to them who produces the food that Canadians eat.”

During their meeting in Whitehorse last week, Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Agriculture met with representatives of the private insurance industry in order to seek their input and advice regarding possible new products to fill the gap created by increasing the threshold for AgriStability. Speaking at the press conference following the meeting, Federal Agriculture Minister, Gerry Ritz indicated that a full safety-net program left no room or incentive for farmers to pay private insurance premiums.

 “I really have to wonder whether AgriStability is a farm safety-net program, or if it would more accurately be termed an insurance industry enhancement program,” said NFU Ontario Regional Co-ordinator, Ann Slater. “I can’t see anything in the new programs that would help farmers trying to survive by increasing their on-farm diversity or moving more towards stable, domestic markets either.”

The National Farmers Union had called for changes to the Business Risk Management programs that would maintain small and medium-sized farmers on the land in the face of policy that promotes ever-increasing scale, more exports and greater specialization and consequently assists the few very largest farms to compete unfairly with the majority of smaller producers.

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For more information:

Terry Boehm, President – (306) 255-2880 or (306) 257-3689
Ann Slater, Region 3 (Ontario) Co-ordinator – (519) 349-2448
Cathy Holtslander, Director of Research and Policy -- (306) 652-9465