Business Risk Management Programs Failing Canadians
Shannon Stubbs wrote Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau to highlight how the suite of agricultural Business Risk Management programs are failing farmers in Lakeland, and across Canada:
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
1341 Baseline Road
Ottawa Ontario K1A 0C5
January 12, 2022
Dear Minister Bibeau,
I wish to draw your attention to serious shortcomings in your assistance to Canada’s agriculture sector, which is threatening both the viability of Canada’s food supply chain as well as the livelihoods of millions of farm families in Alberta and across Canada.
As you are aware, the last two years in particular have been extremely difficult for farmers and ranchers, with a summer of floods, followed by the most severe drought in 60 years, and what many have referred to as “the harvest from hell.”
Farming is one of the cornerstones of the economy in my constituency, and I have heard first-hand from many farmers about the devastating effects of these weather events, as well as the devastation caused by a wide array of risks beyond their control, risks that continue to increase. What is also clear from my discussions with farmers, stakeholders, and many constituents is that the Business Risk Management Programs which are designed to help alleviate these risks are largely ineffective, and in some cases, completely broken.
ln 2017, your government negotiated an agreement with the provinces to continue to focus risk management support on severe loss and disaster under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, in order to help manage those risks that threaten the viability of the farm. However, the current BRM suite is failing farmers as these risks increase and program coverage does not keep pace.
As an example, in the case of the AgriStability program – which is a core pillar of Canada's BRM suite, representing the only tool currently available to all farmers to manage both production and market risks – I have heard time and again that the program has serious shortcomings which your government has failed to address over the last six years.
- The application process is overly complex and time-consuming for individuals whose livelihoods depends on their constant attention to crops or livestock;
- The program is not predictable or bankable. Payouts can often take years to finalize, by which time farmers are already in dire straights.
- Mechanisms – such as an industry-government working group - do not exist to ensure that BRM programs are reviewed in a transparent fashion to ensure they are meeting their objectives and responding to industry needs.
These shortcomings in the AgriStability program, in particular the confusing application process, have resulted in a precipitous decline in participation rates, reducing the level of support available to farmers who are facing losses. Statistics suggest that only 30% of eligible producers are registered for AgriStability. And I continue to hear from farmers in my constituency that AgriStability no longer provides meaningful support capable of responding to the plethora of challenges affecting farmers.
Despite the fact that agriculture is not even mentioned in your government’s recent Speech from the Throne, as Agriculture Minister I trust that you are aware that agriculture has always been at the centre of Canadian identity, and is a key to our long-term prosperity.
The sector normally contributes billions of dollars to Canada’s GDP and employs millions of Canadians. Canada is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world, and this country produces the world’s best and most nutritious foods. I therefore urge you in the strongest terms to work diligently with your provincial colleagues to address the above, and many other shortcomings to Canada’s Business Risk Management programs to ensure the programs are: regularly reviewed to ensure they are meeting their primary objective of helping Canadian farmers; easy to understand and easily accessible by farmers; and provide the support farmers need when they need it.
I look forward to your response.
Shannon Stubbs, MP