Farmers say safety net programs fail to deliver

MORRIS, Man. — Cam Bartel hopes AgriStability and other safety net programs can be fixed.

Then he would feel OK about getting back into farming.

“We have had to exit hog production,” said Bartel, who shut his hog feeder barn a few years ago.

“AgriStability used to work when we had profitable margins, (but) after subsequent years of negative margins and changes to the programming, it became ineffective.”

Bartel was one of the disappointed and discouraged farmers who appeared before the Manitoba Agriculture Business Risk Management Task Force during province-wide consultations in July.

He lives in the southern Red River Valley and noted the problems with AgriStability during multi-year income slumps, but his concerns were echoed across the province.

The day before in Beausejour, a couple of farmers said today’s programs fail to sufficiently protect net income to keep farms sound during bad times.

“Guaranteed income is what we need to move forward,” said one.

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Task force chair Bill Uruski said in an interview after the final meeting wrapped up that the failure of the present safety net system to protect net income has been a consistent theme through the consultations.

AgriStability’s problems have created more than disgruntlement, he said. Revisions that slashed coverage levels have “diluted (it) to the point that many farmers are, in fact, leaving them.”

The task force’s objective is to find ways to adjust the risk management safety net to deal with the likelihood of more severe and prolonged crop and livestock production problems as climate change makes weather events more volatile and extreme.

Frieda Krpan, chair of the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corp. and a St. Laurent farmer, said this concern is not limited to Manitoba, but the province is taking the lead because of recent events such as massive flooding.

“The other provinces are looking at what we are doing,” Krpan said at the Beausejour meeting.

“They are all affected.”

While unhappiness with AgriStability was near-universal, so too was satisfaction with the overall functioning of crop insurance.

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Farmers at the Morris and Beaus-ejour meetings said crop insurance seems to work well, and task force members said most farmers seemed happy with the present system, with “tweaking” being the main concern.

The task force, which must present its final report before the end of the year, will now talk with experts in various fields and collect more written submissions.

Krpan said the government has promised to act on the task force’s conclusions.

“None of us would have agreed to be part of this task force to create a report that sits on the shelf and collects dust,” said Krpan.

“I will hold (agriculture minister Ron Kostyshyn’s) feet to the fire, and the premier’s.”

Uruski said a dominant issue in Manitoba is water management from floods and droughts, both of which can have devastating multi-year impacts.

However, weather seems to be getting more volatile, and the government needs to find “ways that farmers can mitigate the damage of extreme weather conditions over the longer term.”

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  • ed

    Unfortunately Frieda Krpan will have very little luck keeping any government’s feet to the fire on anything to do with agriculture. Wayne Easter’s well done and articulate report entitled “Sharing The Wealth” written in the early 2000’s, and after an extensive Blue Ribbon coast to coast fact finding investigation is sitting on the shelf gathering dust along side many others. In it a $4 Billion dollar one time payment was needed to get farmers in Canada on there feet for starters. Conservative thinking farmers voted out the Liberals in hopes of getting better. Well none of that happened. The report went into much detail about the vast profits in Canadian agriculture and that strengthening Cooperative movements, marketing boards and collective and collaborative thinking were the keys to moving the wealth from the top down and having it shared. Farmers and others unfortunately voted with their Conservative roots and that lead to the lose of the CWB single desk (without a wimper from farmers or their farm group representatives it may be added) and the most probable dilution of supply management through trade agreements such as the TPP that sometimes have suspect value to farmers if not done much better than they have ever been done in the recent past. Strengthening BRM first line of defence programs such as AgriStability and joint funded Federal/Provincial/Producer crop insurances was high on the priority list in this report as well to be vastly strengthened and easier to access. No no, farmers and others who can not connect dots even if they have numbers beside them voted for the Conservatives and had AgriStability gutted in coverage, triggers and accessibility and the tri-funded crop insurances although easier to trigger, have not kept up with the inflationary factors in modern day crop production. At 100% coverage these program most often would not pay half a farmers cost of production and at 80% even less. There is no mechanics to buy up your coverage after successive years of bad weather beat it down through no fault of the producer, and really no COP value at all and none being contemplated. So there you have. Time to stop dreaming and start driving, but it is not going to happen.