AgriStability Revisions Subject to Criticisms

A Senator from New Brunswick, as well as a farm group, have criticized recent changes to AgriStability. 

Sen. Pierrette Ringuette explained that she has received numerous complaints from farmers throughout her province regarding AgriStability program revisions, which she alleged is having a negative effect on Canadian agribusiness, according to Better Farming. She noted that in particular, gripes were focused on the labour expenses that farmers are able to claim on their stabilization applications. Wages paid to off-farm staff are considered a viable expense, but the revisions to the program do not allow farmers to claim money paid to family members, defined by AgriStability as "arm's-length" and "non-arm's-length" employees. 

The program is administered by the provincial governments of Ontario, Quebec, Alberta, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island, the news source explained. For farmers in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba and Yukon, the program is controlled by a central office in Winnipeg. 

Speaking before the Senate, Ringuette noted that Revenue Canada, the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance do not make the same distinctions regarding family members, the publication reported. She has asked the government to re-examine changes made to the program. The recent changes aren't the only AgriStability revisions that have proven detrimental to farmers. 

Issues With A Number Of Recent Reviews

Greg Porozni, president of Cereals Canada, discussed with the Alberta Farmer Express the possibility that Alberta may begin lobbying for increased farm assistance - something other provinces have already begun. A September snowstorm combined with a significant American harvest have altered the markets notably in the prairie province. He told the publication that one of the largest obstacles he has faced was changes made to the legislation in 2012. 

"I don't think anybody wants to get a handout, but at the same time, we had a good program there and built up some good indexes for our downturn, only to find out that the feds slashed the level of support," Porozni told Alberta Farmer Express. 

Sen. Ringuette called Canada's treatment of its farmers "a disgrace" when speaking before the Senate, Better Farming noted. She explained that 90 percent of Canadian farmers rely on some source of family labour. 

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has also taken up issue with the most recent revisions to the program. The organization has issues with other revisions in addition to the family labour changes. The CFA has also criticized the formula for determining how much farmers are entitled to - in the past farms' history of profitability was taken into account, but now only expenses are. 

"It's a combination of these two things that are causing a problem," Ron Bonnett, president of the CFA stated, according to Better farming. "If you're an efficient farmer, you're almost penalized," he added. 

Now that the revisions are six months old, Bonnett told the publication that the federation will call for a review of the AgriStability program. 

"At the time when the changes were brought in we really had no way of analyzing what the impact would be," Bonnett told the publication. "What we're asking is 'Let's take a look at it and see what's happening.'" 

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