Bibeau repeats plea to farmers to use existing BRM funds

Agriculture minister says it is difficult for her to obtain more government money if programs are not already accessed

Canada’s agriculture minister is asking farmers to help her to get more support money for them.

To do that, they’ll need to use the money already in their business risk management accounts and show where it isn’t adequate, she warns.

“If they are not accessing the programs that are available to them, it’s harder for me to get more,” Marie-Claude Bibeau said May 14, the day a $100 million agribusiness support program was announced.

“We are willing to put more to support them, definitely, more significantly, but I need them to use the programs to see where the gaps are and who are those who are in greatest need so we can put in place the right additional programs to support them.”

With more than $2.3 billion sitting in AgriInvest accounts, farm organizations say federal officials appear to be reluctant to embrace any call for more farm aid, despite crisis situations for hog and cattle producers.

The previous $252 million announcement of emergency aid was heavily skewed toward livestock producers, but industry leaders have said those programs are sadly inadequate for addressing the size of the crisis. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture had asked for more than 10 times that amount.

The new Agriculture and Food Business Solutions Fund is part of Farm Credit Canada’s newly granted $5 billion credit expansion.

It will allow various types of agribusiness and food companies to access money through “innovative solutions such as convertible debt instruments and other flexible financing solutions.”

While using FCC money, it has been designed and will be partly overseen by Calgary firm Forage Capital Inc. That partnership between FCC and Forage arose because the federal government is launching this program earlier than intended,

“We hurried a little bit to have it ready,” said Bibeau.

The program was conceived before COVID-19 and will remain after the crisis has abated. Its focus is to help companies hit by an “unexpected business disruption.”

Companies can qualify for a maximum $10 million.

Farmers have complained about federal aid, which pales in comparison to what the United States government is offering its producers, and about support in the form of loans.

Bibeau said more federal support for farmers will be available, but farmers need to use the money in their BRM accounts. Farmers need to demonstrate that they have used up whatever support they have available.

“I do expect more support, absolutely, absolutely,” said Bibeau.

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