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Bibeau announces tweaks to AgriStability

Bibeau announces tweaks to AgriStability

Producers can use private insurance to top up coverage

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) announced small changes to its business risk management programs.

Amendments to AgriStability must reflect the changing needs of producers, Marie-Claude Bibeau, the federal ag minister, told reporters from Ottawa on Tuesday following a meeting with her provincial counterparts.

“The risks producers face today have changed particularly with respect to climate and international trade,” she said. “Current programs need to evolve to meet producers’ needs.”

One update to AgriStability changes the treatment of private insurance.

Previously, payments farmers received from private insurance policies would reduce producers’ assistance from the federal program.

This new measure would “encourage producers to apply to AgriStability to protect themselves from major losses, and, if they wish, access complementary insurance which would not interfere with the federal-provincial program,“ Bibeau said.

Another tweak to the program could come in the application process.

AAFC is launching a pilot project in select provinces that will let farmers use tax return information to apply for AgriStability, hopefully making the application process smoother.

Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will be the test provinces as the federal government handles AgriStability in those jurisdictions.

For provinces like Ontario, where the provincial government administers AgriStability, a similar project is in the works.

“It will take us a little bit longer to get in place,” Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, said during the press conference. “We’ll be starting it one year later.”

The ag ministers also discussed increasing reference margin limits from 70 per cent to 85 per cent.

Doing so “is always an option, but we were not ready at this stage to go forward with such a significant increase,” Bibeau said.

The 15 per cent jump would cost the government around $300 million annually, she added.

Canada’s ag ministers will spend the next few months assessing the business risk management programs. In April, the provincial and territorial ministers will provide Minister Bibeau with recommendations to make the programs better for producers.

The next meeting of the federal-provincial-territorial ag ministers will take place in Guelph, Ont. in July 2020.

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