Producers push to extend farm program review

A coalition of Canadian farm organizations wants the business risk management program review extended because it hasn’t been finished in time for next week’s agriculture ministers meeting in Vancouver.

The one-year review was announced last July at the ministerial meeting in St. John’s, N.L., but it was late getting out of the gate. An external expert advisory panel that included farmers, and designed to support federal and provincial officials, wasn’t announced until December. It will release some recommendations next week, including that the work be extended.

The AgGrowth Coalition, which represents a broad cross-section of farmers, says there is still much more work to be done.

“We urge Canada’s agriculture ministers to extend the BRM review process under the guidance of a new steering committee, including more participation from our farming organizations,” coalition chair said Mark Brock in a July 9 news release.

Vice-chair Jeff Nielsen, who heads coalition member Grain Growers of Canada, said the timeline was just too short to get all the work done.

“I think even the provinces, the majority of them are realizing this has just really started,” he said from his sprayer.

“We want to ensure that we do work on programming that’s responsible and responsive to the needs of our producers, not just for today but for future needs.”

He said a new steering committee should contain more farmers and “the right mix” of federal and provincial officials and get to work immediately.

The main focus of the review is AgriStability and the fact that it doesn’t offer the risk management most farmers need. A change to the reference margin limit made last year isn’t expected to improve farmer participation.

The coalition, which also includes the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Grain Farmers of Ontario, the Canadian Canola Growers Association, the Canadian Horticultural Council and the National Sheep Network, undertook its own review along with the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.

Nielsen said that report has been done but not yet thoroughly examined.

CFA vice-president Norm Hall suggested last fall that an extension to the review might be necessary.

He said that work should actually be ongoing, similar to the former safety net review committee that was once in place, so the programs are under constant scrutiny.

“Let’s run it right to the next partnership,” he said.

Nielsen added that the coalition will push for any review documents to be made public.

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