The province is moving ahead with enhancing the program, while calling on the federal government to contribute their share
By Jackie Clark
On Friday, the Ontario government committed to providing the provincial portion of the AgriStability program compensation rate increase from 70 to 80 per cent, retroactive to the 2020 season.
“Ontario farmers can’t wait any longer for improvements to the AgriStability program – so the Ontario government is taking action and also calling on the federal government and other provinces to step up as well,” said Lisa Thompson, minister of agriculture, food and rural affairs, in the June 25 announcement. “By enhancing the AgriStability program, we can better help those Ontario farmers who have been impacted by large income losses from factors outside of their control.”
The province is “calling on the federal government to contribute their share,” the release said.
The federal government cannot move forward with the change without a consensus among provinces, Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal minister of agriculture and agri-food, told Farms.com.
“By now it should be well understood that in order to change AgriStability at the national level, we need a strong majority of provinces to agree,” she explained. “This is how our cost-shared five-year federal-provincial agreements work. The Prairie provinces need to step up to make this happen.”
In November the federal government tabled a proposal to remove the refence margin limit, and increase the compensation rate of the program by ten per cent. In March, provinces reached a consensus on the reference margin limits, however did not all commit to the compensation rate change.
However, even the provinces contribution will make a real difference to farmers, Peggy Brekveld, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, told Farms.com.
Based on 2019 data, “Ontario’s announcement to increase the provincial compensation rate from 70 to 80, would have increased those payments by another 3.4 million,” she explained.
The payouts change every year, but the increased compensation rates will benefit those who grow “everything from flowers to wheat … it will effect all non-supply managed sectors including beef and pork,” she added.
Ontario isn’t alone in providing additional AgriStability support to farmers.
“British Columbia, Prince Edward Island and Quebec have also done program enhancements,” Brekveld said.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is encouraging other provinces to join in, and is joining the call to Ottawa to contribute the 60% share of funds that come from the federal level.
“While the removal of the RML was greatly appreciated, both pieces of the federal proposal need to be adopted to bring the AgriStability program back to the strength it held before it was weakened in 2013,” said Mary Robinson, CFA president, in the June 28 release. “We hope that this bold action from Ontario, building on similar program enhancements in BC, PEI and Quebec, can inspire the other provinces to make a similar change.”
Bibeau said that she would continue to work to improve business risk management programs for farmers.
“I applaud Ontario for taking the added step of boosting the compensation rate provincially. Without a strong consensus among provinces, many other provinces have also chosen to offer additional support to their farmers on a provincial basis,” she added. “I look forward to meeting Minister Thompson for the first time and discussing together how we can best support farmers in the short and long term.”
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