Reference margin limit removed, enrolment deadline extended for AgriStability

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau speaks to reporters in March 2019.

The meeting of the Federal-Provincial-Territorial ag leaders ended without a full agreement on what Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Marie-Claude Bibeau proposed back in November, 2020.

At that time, Bibeau offered to remove the reference margin limit and increase the coverage level from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. The cost structure of a 60/40 split between the feds and the provinces would stay the same.

In order to move forward with the full changes, two of the three Prairie provinces needed to agree to the proposal. Between November and a few weeks ago, none of the Prairie provinces would commit to the proposal, saying they wanted another meeting and the opportunity to ask more questions.

Today’s meeting was offered by Bibeau in response, and the federal minister made it clear she was looking for the provinces to come prepared with an answer.

At the conclusion, Bibeau announced that all provinces had agreed to the removal of the reference margin limit, retroactive for 2020, but that an agreement was not reached on the move to an 80 per cent compensation rate.

It was also announced that the enrolment deadline of April 30, 2021 to join the program was extended to June 30, 2021.

The Canadian Pork Council acknowledged the ministers’ efforts to meet and discuss AgriStability, but say they are extremely disappointed that federal and provincial agriculture ministers could not reach consensus on Minister Bibeau’s proposal to improve payment rates.

“We know AgriStability negotiations are not easy, but removing the reference margin limit does very little for pork producers.” Said Rick Bergmann, Chair of the Canadian Pork Council. “We expected that, in these difficult times, the Prairie provincial ministers would have considered the challenges faced by pork producers.” The CPC says that its membership has faced extreme price fluctuations, border closures, and processing plant shutdowns over the last year.

“We had high expectations that provincial ministers understood that the situation was difficult for pork producers and that they placed their hope in this program for meaningful financial assistance. Our desired outcome was for provincial ministers to support the proposed solutions put forward by the federal government, including raising the program’s payment rate from 70% to 80%.” Bergmann says.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is also disappointed that an agreement on the compensation rate was not reached, but adds that they are pleased with the changes “that will stand to benefit beef producers across the country. Removing the RML will go a long way in making AgriStability more predictable and equitable for our industry.” The CCA also supports the enrolment extension.

Ministers will continue to work on alternative risk management designs, according to AAFC, ahead of discussions on longer-term reforms, set to take place at their next in-person Annual Conference at Guelph, Ontario scheduled for September 8-10, 2021.

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