Farm groups call out FPT ministers on slow pace and little action

Less than a day after the Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture had their meeting in Ottawa, farm groups are expressing their frustration with the lack of results from the meeting.

Many feel as though the group missed the mark to address key concerns after a lot of producers dealt with a brutal harvest for the 2019 crop year.

The Grain Farmers of Ontario say they’re “disillusioned by the lack of action for non-supply managed farmers.” The group is calling for compensation for farmers to address the acute issues from trade disruptions, and says farmers need business risk management (BRM) programming in place as a back-stop for recovery once the markets recover.

Chair of the organization, Markus Haerle says, “Non supply managed farms have been the hardest hit by worldwide trade wars and depressed prices, yet the ministers of agriculture announce money for supply managed farmers and consultations for the rest of us. Supply managed farmers have not even experienced the hurt and they have already received a cheque from the federal government. Our farmer-members are incurring sustained losses and the only promise they have is more meetings.”

Meanwhile, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions (AWBC) are also calling on the various levels of governments to accelerate their efforts to improve national BRM programming, including an overhaul of the AgriStability program. The commissions were hopeful that more progress would have been made in improvements to AgriStability at this week’s meeting.

“This year has unfortunately demonstrated why changes to AgriStability are urgent and necessary, particularly for younger farmers who may not have the equity to withstand the multiple challenges we see in the marketplace today,” says Dave Bishop, Alberta Barley chair.

AWBC says there’s a broad consensus among Canadian farm groups that AgriStability coverage should be adjusted to cover losses starting at 85 per cent of historical reference margins from the current level of 70 per cent adding that farm groups have also advocated for an end to reference margin limits.

The Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) also have some stern words for the ministers. The organization says its members are “disappointed and frustrated” by the lack of change stemming from the meeting, especially when producers have faced a difficult year and that little to no change will be implemented before the calendar flips to 2020.

“Yet once again, no meaningful changes have been put in place, leaving all Canadian farmers reeling and discouraged,” its news release stated. (article continues below video)

Due to numerous factors contributing to the stress of the 2019 crop year, the GGC says farm debt is accelerating at an unprecedented rate, and net farm incomes are projected to fall further than the 45 per cent decrease in 2018.

At this rate, Canadian farmers can’t help but feel bleak about the future, as evidenced by mental health help lines across the country reporting an 80 per cent increase in call volumes compared to previous years, the GGC says.

“There is a crisis facing farmers across the country. Our representatives should be trying much harder to fix this crisis and support Canadians whose livelihood is at stake,” says Jeff Nielsen, chair of the GGC.

Nielsen adding that the GGC will not walk away and accept this unsatisfactory outcome. A call to Minister Bibeau’s office will be made this week to fight for other options to provide farmers with immediate support.

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