Erin Gowriluk, Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada
GROWERS DEAL WITH risks all year long, but managing those risks can be top of mind during planting. With all that money and energy that they are investing, growers want to know that they will be able to manage the risk of weather, markets and everything else that can impact your bottom line between the time that crop goes in the ground and when it leaves the farm.
We know that government programs used to be an essential part of the grower’s toolbox in managing that risk. But over the years it seems like those tools have been getting smaller and cheaper, which has left growers with big gaps in their risk management toolbox.
We have long argued for changes that will make programs more simple, predictable and bankable, but it seems like governments have often turned a deaf ear to our concerns. That changed in July 2017 when agriculture ministers launched a new policy framework. While the framework only included minor tweaks to business risk management (BRM) programs, ministers finally launched a comprehensive review of BRM programs.
After receiving the recommendations of an expert advisory panel in July 2018, ministers directed officials to work on the recommendations and report back in July 2019. The recommendations included looking at top-up programs to fill the gaps in the existing suite, finding ways to improve AgriStability and to improve education and awareness about the BRM suite.
The July 2019 meeting is now fast approaching and Grain Grower of Canada (GGC) is ramping up its efforts to make sure ministers continue the work of making meaningful changes to the BRM suite. As part of our work we recently surveyed our members to get their perspectives on what needs to change.
There are different perspectives on how to fix programs, but there were some key themes that came out of the survey.
First, farmers are looking for programs that are simpler to understand and easier to work with. That is one of the main reasons there is so much support for the AgriInvest program and so much opposition to AgriStability.
Second, farmers want programs that are effective at managing risk. For the most part, growers feel crop insurance is an effective tool because it directly responds when their production declines below the insured threshold. They do not see the other programs responding in the same way.
Third, the cost should be second. No GGC member is calling for significant new dollars to be invested in risk management, but all agree that cost should not limit effective programming. The priority should be designing effective demand-driven programs; cost should be second.
Finally, growers have lost confidence in AgriStability. We heard that growers want margin protection, but they have no confidence in AgriStability to provide that protection. There was a long list of recommendations about how to fix AgriStability, and securing those changes be a priority for GGC going forward.
GGC is drilling deeper on a couple of critical questions and will continue to work closely with our members to make sure we are advocating for changes that will deliver the effective risk management programs that farmers are looking for.
This summer’s Agriculture Ministers’ meeting will be a significant milestone on the long road to BRM reform, but the road won’t end there. It’s important that federal and provincial ministers, MPs and MLAs hear about the need to fix BRM programs before the meetings this summer. GGC is available to help make sure you are getting the right messages to the right people on this key issue.
We all hope that weather, markets and everything else will cooperate and that you will not have to worry about risk management, but we know it rarely works that way. That is why we will keep advocating for more effective risk management programs and why we are committed to working on your behalf on this and other issues impacting the competitiveness and profitability of grain growers across Canada.