Federal, provincial and territorial ag ministers aim to come to an agreement on AgriStability at the twice-postponed conference
By Jackie Clark
The 2020 Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Agriculture meetings are scheduled to take place virtually on Nov. 20 and 27, according to a Nov. 3 tweet from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). The ministers will discuss improvements to business risk management programs, namely AgriStability – an issue many ag groups are eager to have addressed.
The meeting was originally slated to take place in Guelph in July, and was initially postponed to Oct. 14-16. AAFC announced a second postponement due to the Saskatchewan election in a tweet on Sept. 15.
Even with the delays, the provincial and territorial ag ministers have been working together frequently over the past several months, Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, said in a press conference on Nov. 6. She was meeting with the ministers every week at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministers have had “a lot of conversations because of COVID-19 mainly, but also because we are very committed to find a consensus on improving the business risk management, mainly AgriStability,” she said. That program is “the first project that we are looking to (discuss), and all hoping to be able to find a consensus and make significant improvements.”
The ministers will discuss other prominent issues in the ag industry as well.
“We will also be talking about African swine fever (ASF), which is something that we are also working hard on, to hopefully avoid having the disease on our territory,” Bibeau explained. If ASF comes to Canada, “we will be ready.”
The ministers “also want to talk about the fees that were imposed by some big retailers recently,” she added. Several grocery retailers, including Loblaws and Walmart, have increased fees charged to suppliers.
Bibeau and other federal representatives will provide an update to provincial ministers on programs that are under federal jurisdiction, such as international trade, research and innovation.
The decision to hold the meeting over two days, separated by a week, was made partly to accommodate the “intense” nature of virtual meetings, Bibeau explained.
“We expect to have, I would say, tough discussions around finding a consensus for AgriStability,” she said. Ag ministers might need time in between discussions to meet with their respective teams to discuss priorities around specific changes to the program such as compensation rates, reference margins, triggers and caps.
“There are different criteria that we can change to make AgriStability more generous obviously, but also more accessible and fair,” Bibeau said.
AAFC will release an official joint statement upon the meeting’s conclusion on Nov. 27.
MarcBruxelle\iStock\Getty Images Plus photo