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Ag Groups Call for Return of Higher Interest-Free Portion on Loan Program

A pair of Saskatchewan farm groups are calling on the federal government to reinstate the higher limit on the interest-free portion of the Advance Payment Program for 2024. 

The Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan as well as the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association have written a joint letter to federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay seeking a return to the upper limit of $350,000 for the interest-free portion of the program. The maximum total advance available is $1 million. 

Originally set at $100,000, the upper limit on the interest-free portion was raised by Agriculture Canada to $250,000 in 2022 and to $350,000 in 2023 due to rising interest rates and input costs. But for the 2024 growing season, the interest-free portion has been returned to $100,000. 

According to APAS, the $250,000 reduction in the interest-free portion could translate to an additional estimated $30,000 for farmers to cover interest costs, representing more than three times the burden compared to 2021.  

The implications of this decision extend far beyond financial strain and will have wide-ranging impacts on farm financial management, APAS said in a release Tuesday. With smaller interest-free portions, farmers may turn to high-interest loans and credit lines, exacerbating financial challenges already faced by many producers today. 

“It’s been three years since the APP interest-free portion was at $100,000, and interest rates have skyrocketed, grain prices have dramatically declined, and input prices have remained high,” said APAS President Ian Boxall. “The program needs to reflect the current realities of farm and ranch operations. Our margins are tighter today than two years ago when the amount was increased due to rapidly increasing input costs.” 

Returning the interest-free limit to $100,000, is a “short-sighted decision that fails to acknowledge the persisting challenges faced by farmers,” Boxall added. 

The Advance Payment Program, a federal loan guarantee initiative, has long been a crucial lifeline for agricultural producers, offering them reliable access to low-cost cash advances to manage cash flow and navigate the uncertainties inherent in agriculture. 

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