Ag groups propose bridge over funding gaps

Leading up to the expected launch of the federal and provincial governments’ latest ag policy framework, several of Canada’s general farm groups have relaunched a proposal for a new program to cover what they say are gaps in that framework.

Originally proposed in November 2007, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture’s AgriFlex proposal would build on the new federal/provincial “Growing Forward” framework’s suite of business risk management (BRM) programming “by addressing unique regional needs or commodity-specific challenges,” the CFA said Friday in a release.

Joined by the leaders of Manitoba’s Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) and the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), CFA president Bob Friesen further outlined the proposal at the Western Canada Farm Progress Show in Regina.

Governments, CFA said, “should be partners in creating regional and commodity-specific agricultural investments, such as support for temporary declines in commodity prices, research and development initiatives, and production insurance enhancements.”

AgriFlex would offer flexibility in regional
programming, CFA said, by allowing federal funds to partner with programs which
would leverage provincial funds and allow the flexibility to use those funds in the method that has the greatest benefit to farmers.

Ontario, Quebec and Alberta have already established programs that could be integrated with AgriFlex, CFA said.

“The best time to develop these types of proactive solutions is during a time of relative stability,” said KAP president Ian Wishart in CFA’s release. “We are fortunate that some commodity prices are good right now, especially in the grains and oilseeds sector, but it’s imperative to recognize that the market has also become extremely volatile, and prices could decline in the coming months and years.”

Giving some examples, Wishart said AgriFlex could be used in Manitoba for enhanced crop insurance programs and full coverage for waterfowl and wildlife damage.

Also in CFA’s release, Humphrey Banack, president of Alberta’s Wild Rose Agricultural Producers (WRAP), said an AgriFlex program could be used to fund the “individualized area-based crop insurance program being developed in Alberta.”

“We also need to create some new opportunities, and AgriFlex would help to launch a province-wide Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program,” said Wishart, a Portage la Prairie farmer who helped develop Canada’s first ALUS pilot in the RM of Blanshard. ALUS provides funding to farmers for ecological services farmers undertake in the broader public interest.

The cost of certain programs supported by AgriFlex could be linked to market prices, while considering trade sensitivities and respecting Canada’s trade commitments, Friesen said.

Current high prices of certain commodities, such as grains and oilseeds, would significantly minimize program costs, in keeping with existing BRM programming methods. Plus, AgriFlex could reduce the level of ad-hoc spending and give farmers added ability to plan for the future, Friesen said.

“It goes without saying that farming can be very different operation across Canada,” CFA wrote. AgriStability and AgriInvest, the basis for BRM under the Growing Forward framework, “while an important and appreciated mechanism of support for farmers across Canada, are national programs that can sometimes be too rigid for regional or commodity-specific situations.”

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