NFU files for AgriRecovery drought assessment

Invoking its status as a national farm organization, the National Farmers Union has formally asked the federal government to assess ongoing drought in Saskatchewan and Alberta for aid under AgriRecovery.

“For many farm families, the determining factor for whether they will be able to continue farming will be the adequacy and the timeliness of your government’s response under the AgriRecovery framework,” NFU president Stewart Wells said in the letter.

The government must “move with unprecedented swiftness to craft an AgriRecovery program that delivers funds rapidly,” Wells, who farms at Swift Current, Sask., wrote.

Seeded acres across much of Alberta and Saskatchewan are in dry to very dry conditions, especially in Alberta’s east-central and Saskatchewan’s northwest and west-central areas.

Observers consider dry conditions in western Manitoba to be relatively much less severe, while some regions further east have seen crop injury from excess moisture.

Under the federal/provincial suite of business risk management programming for farmers, AgriRecovery is intended to provide “quick, targeted assistance” in regions afflicted with natural disasters, such as crop wrecks due to weather.

In the event of a regional disaster, a provincial government can formally ask the federal government to assess whether aid is needed over and above existing programs such as AgriStability or AgriInsurance.

“Upon request”

However, “in instances where an event is national in scope and upon request from a national organization or the affected provinces, the federal government may initiate an assessment to determine whether assistance through AgriRecovery is warranted,” the government says on the AgriRecovery website.

If Ottawa and the affected provinces then agree an AgriRecovery program is needed to help farmers resume business operations and/or take short-term action to minimize the impacts of the disaster, then “a targeted program response unique to the specific situation is developed in consultation with the affected industry and implemented,” the government said.

In this case, however, the NFU urges the federal government to cover the full cost of this specific AgriRecovery aid, so as to save time by avoiding “protracted negotiations regarding multi-party funding.”

“While provincial governments must have effective input into solutions, a federal offer to cover all costs will dramatically speed implementation and provide affordability in provinces where there are relatively few people in proportion to the tens-of-millions of acres affected by this drought,” Wells wrote.

Federal/provincial program funding splits in AgriRecovery programs are to be assessed on a “case-by-case” basis in the event of a large natural disaster, Wells noted.

Furthermore, he said in an NFU release Monday, the government needs to “double” both the resources it is putting into the drought relief effort and the speed of implementation.

Wells also urged the government to put out a “discussion document to farmers” outlining the range of available solutions, including “immediate cash payments, debt-servicing relief, hay purchase and transport programs, cattle relocation programs, and other options.”

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