Sask. pressured on AgriStability

At a farm just north of Regina, agriculture critic Trent Wother-spoon and leader Ryan Meili said the recent threat of drought should have been enough for the Saskatchewan Party government to change its mind and agree to pay for the change. | Screencap via globalnews.ca

The Saskatchewan NDP last week continued its call for the provincial government to sign on to increasing the AgriStability compensation rate.

At a farm just north of Regina, agriculture critic Trent Wotherspoon and leader Ryan Meili said the recent threat of drought should have been enough for the Saskatchewan Party government to change its mind and agree to pay for the change.

Increasing the rate from 70 percent to 80 percent would cost the government $9 million this year, Wotherspoon said.

“The federal government has come to the table and is committed to the proposal as well as to the lion’s share of the funding,” he said. “Certainly producers know they’re one adverse weather event away from crop failure.

Cam Goff, who farms near Hanley, said AgriStability has been a lifeline for farmers over the last decade.

“But since the Harper Conservatives basically cut the program in 2013, farmers have faced increased costs, increased stress and basically increased uncertainty simply because of the fact that they rely on that program as a backstop for bad weather,” he said during the news conference. “Farming is a very risky business and really needs to have a backstop.”

Goff said if it hadn’t rained during mid-May the crop would have been in serious trouble, and if it doesn’t rain again that threat will return.

He said changing the compensation rate wouldn’t make as much of a difference for him, at age 65 and farming since 1975, as it would for younger or new farmers or those who have recently expanded.

“Crop insurance is a great medium-term program but if you want something for a longer-term AgriStability can really give peace of mind,” he said.

The federal, provincial and territorial ministers are to meet in September to discuss business risk management programs, including the possibility of moving to a margin-based insurance program.

Federal minister Marie-Claude Bibeau last week said she hadn’t heard from the prairie provinces, whose participation is required for the compensation rate to change.

“I take every opportunity to remind them that it’s still on the table and I know that many stakeholders are still reminding them but that’s as much as I can tell you for now,” she said.

Meili said producers need to know the government is on their side.

“We know that we are always at some risk of drought, a bad storm, an early frost,” he said.

Wotherspoon added that the sign-up deadline is June 30 so there is still time for governments to act.

“We’re coming through a pandemic,” he said. “We need to make sure our farms are in a position, that our producers are in a position, to lead us out of it and it’s about making sure we have their backs.”

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