The Saskatchewan government has moved to increase penalties on parts distributors who fail to keep an adequate supply on hand for farmers.
The amendments to the Agricultural Implements Act would also increase compensation to farmers who lose time and money as a result of poor service.
Both the Agricultural Manufacturers of Canada and the Western Equipment Dealers Association said they were consulted on the changes and are satisfied with the amendments proposed by Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart.
“Overall we’re happy with the legislation that has been put forward,” said AMC president Leah Olson.
“I think he took a very balanced approach.”
Stewart said the changes were a result of a request from the Agricultural Implementation Board, which handles complaints about warranty, repairs and parts services
Fines would increase substantially in several categories. For example, the penalty on distributors who fail to supply parts will rise from $5,000 to $50,000. The maximum compensation to farmers would go from $10,000 to $50,000.
“Perhaps in 1979 $5,000 was appropriate,” said John Schmeiser, chief executive officer of WEDA.
Increasing that to $50,000 puts teeth in the legislation, he said, and persuades manufacturers to keep their parts inventory well stocked.
Schmeiser said the changes shouldn’t affect Saskatchewan-based manufacturers or major manufacturers with parts depots.
“Without any hesitation I can say there has not been an issue with Saskatchewan-based manufacturers. They have been excellent,” he said.
“It’s unfortunate that out-of-province, out-of-country manufacturers have completely disregarded the law. The government has responded in a proper way to make them pay attention to this law.”
Olson said she didn’t know which companies had drawn complaints. She said dealers consistently rate short-line manufacturers high when it comes to service.
She also pointed out that short-line companies are easily able to meet the legislation’s requirement that parts be supplied within 72 hours.
Previously, Sunday was eliminated from that time period; the amendments will change that.
Stewart said the act hadn’t been revised since 2003, and agriculture has changed substantially since then.
“The new penalties will reflect the current cost of purchasing and repairing modern agricultural implements,” he said during legislative debate.
“They will also reflect the cost of producers’ lost revenue and down time as a result of inadequate parts and service.”
The AIB annual report for 2016-17 doesn’t say exactly how many farmer complaints it dealt with but does say spare parts supply, higher prices and warranty issues comprised the majority of them.
The report lists 402 dealers, 88 distributors and 217 manufacturers in the province. The board conducted just one hearing, which resulted in a decision in favour of the farmer and a $10,000 compensation award.
In the past seven years, the board has conducted just four hearings in total.
“I wouldn’t say we’ve had a lot of complaints, but we’ve had some individuals that have been through the process of trying to make claims against the previous act and have found that even if they’re successful the amounts that could be paid out were inadequate to cover the cost of repairs these days,” Stewart said in an interview.
The amendments will be back before the legislative assembly when it returns in March.