Ag ministers promise no immediate help

QUEBEC CITY — Canadian farmers won’t be getting immediate help to deal with trade disruptions, nor will they see any changes to business risk management programs this year.

The federal, provincial and territorial agriculture ministers concluded their meeting in Quebec City today with an agreement to meet again to discuss potential changes to AgriStability.

Officials will develop a set of proposals to improve the much-maligned safety net.

Federal minister Marie-Claude Bibeau acknowledged that farmers produce top quality food and contribute to the economy.

“It is vital that all of our governments keep collaborating to support them,” she told a news conference.

However, the existing support under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership will have to do for now.

“We discussed a range of options of potential changes to AgriStability,” she said.

“We agreed to meet again this fall to discuss further and directed our officials to come back to us with a set of improvements to be implemented in 2020.”

Improvements would include making the program equitable across sectors and easier to understand.

Ministers agreed to analyze how private insurance payments are treated under AgriStability, and they asked officials to find ways to encourage the development and use of other risk management tools.

A follow-up meeting likely won’t be held until November or December, after the federal election. A location hasn’t yet been set.

On the international trade front, ministers unanimously supported the position that trade should be based on rules and science.

They discussed the challenges in canola, pork, beef, durum, pulses and soy and “recognized the need for urgent resolution.”

But Bibeau did not commit to federal government ad hoc help as requested by some farm organizations prior to the meeting.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture said after a roundtable meeting with ministers that BRM programs had to be more responsive and called for “immediate federal programming that provides producers critical relief in the face of geopolitical issues that threaten Canadian agriculture’s global competitiveness and the viability of many Canadian farms.”

The AgGrowth Coalition, which represents several major farm organizations across Canada including the CFA, had called for immediate changes to AgriStability to cover losses at 85 percent of reference margins rather than 70 percent.

Ministers also discussed the labour shortage, a plan to prevent and mitigate African swine fever, and the need to reduce regulatory red tape.

Their 2020 meeting will be held in Guelph, Ont.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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