Local 344 Board of Directors
Local 344′s Media Protocol
Grey Bruce ALUS Funding Proposal
Mrs. Cheryl Gallant,
Re: Meeting to Discuss and Offer Ideas for the New Business Risk Management Program (BRM)/Safety Net Programs Under Growing Forward 2 for 2013-2018
Renfrew County National Farmers Union thanks you for this opportunity to meet with you tonight and we are submitting the following for you to take to your Minister of Agriculture and other key people in his department.
a) Feedback from farmers
b) Summary of National Farmers Union recommendations re: BRM/safety net programs
c) 2012 Drought Disaster
The BRM or safety net programs for agriculture under discussion are AgriStability, AgriInvest, AgriInsurance and AgriRecovery.
First, please let us outline why in the past number of years, and presently, there has been/is a need for these programs. In the past, farmers who were diversified were able to get sufficient returns at the farm gate. When one commodity would not receive sufficient returns, then the farmers were able to compensate with other commodities that did net a profit.
Now in today’s environment in large part, these BRM/safety net programs – other than AgriInsurance – are needed because of the impacts of past and present governments’ direction, especially their continued refusal to address the anti-competitive behaviour of large world agri-corporations, example: large off-shore grain companies, meat processors, seed and input suppliers. Until we have a food sovereignty-based agri-food policy in Canada, there will be a need for safety net programs to help farmers survive the on-going fluctuations in farm returns controlled by world agri-corporations causing the farm income crisis. A new approach is needed for Canada’s agri-food policy – one which changes the balance of power within the food system and allows family farms to again receive a just livelihood.
Supply management is risk management. Note that those in supply management don’t need Risk Management Programs except when a major disaster hits isolated areas like the 2012 drought disaster in Renfrew County.
a) Feedback from Farmers
By today’s statistics it appears only 20-30% of farmers in Renfrew County are enrolled in one or more of the programs–a number of farmers had enrolled but have dropped out. Why?
- Application forms and manuals are not farmer friendly.
- Farmers in some cases require professional help – the cost of fees for help, enrolment fees and the farmer’s time appear to be more than the benefits (most farms are single-handed operated).
- With on-going farm income issues and increasing input costs, farmers see these additional premiums as unaffordable.
- The averaging formulas (five year income average for AgriStability/average rainfall over months for hay/pasture insurance) in many cases calculate to the detriment of the farmer; farmers see little benefit and drop out.
- Mass mail-outs and enrollment notices often come in at farmers’ peak work season; farmers find it very difficult to respond in the time lines – result: cancellation of program re-entry. In some cases, re-entry is refused for three years.
- In summary, for family farmers, the programs are often viewed as a cumbersome, time consuming, complicated costly paper trail with minimum benefits.
b) Summary of National Farmers Union Recommendations for Business Risk Management Program August 2012
- The National Farmers Union recommends that the maximum payment under AgriStability be reduced from the current $3 million per farm to $300,000 per farm.
- The National Farmers Union also recommends that the program cap for AgriInvest be lowered to $1 million of eligible sales, and access to matching grants be provided on a sliding scale based on the total eligible sales per farm up to the maximum of $1 million/farm/year.
- The National Farmers Union recommends that all subsidiaries of a corporate entity be considered a single farm for BRM program purposes. In other words, an agribusiness corporation could not subdivide its operations into a series of smaller spin-off companies in order to maximize its payout under GF2 BRM programs.
- The National Farmers Union recommends maintaining the 15% margin loss trigger for AgriStability.
- The NFU recommends that AgriInvest lower the eligible sales cap to $1 million per year. This would still include 95% of Canadian farms in the program.
- The NFU recommends a sliding scale for the government contributions to AgriInvest accounts. On deposits based on eligible sales up to $250,000 AgriInvest would continue to match 100% of farmers’ deposits. On sales from $250,000 to $500,000, 75% of deposits would be matched, and on sales over $500,000 up to the cap of $1 million, 25% of deposits would be matched.
- AgriInsurance is a valuable program and the National Farmers Union recommends that it be maintained with the same level of government support.
- The National Farmers Union recommends that the federal and provincial governments make climate change mitigation and adaptation a top priority.
- The National Farmers Union recommends that all farmers affected by a disaster be eligible for disaster relief under AgriRecovery regardless of their participation in other BRM programs.
- The NFU recommends that any price insurance proposal be presented in detail for meaningful farmer consultation and approval, that any proposed price insurance scheme be publicly funded, and that it not be used as a replacement for other risk management programs.
Supplementary Recommendations to the Above:
If future programs are going to work, two key components must be also incorporated into the drafts.
- Streamline the enrollment processes to make application forms and manuals more farmer-friendly.
- Engage field staff (costs covered by OMAFRA) to provide a one-on-one assistance to farmers in need of assistance during the enrollment process.
c) 2012 Drought Disaster
In closing, we thank our MP for allowing us to make this presentation. This meeting tonight also addressed the drought disaster presently affecting farmers in Renfrew County. Please also take the attached letter to the Hon. Minister Gerry Ritz and discuss the issues at hand with the Hon. Minister.
Thanking you in advance.
President Renfrew County National Farmers Union
The Huron NFU held a young farmer gathering, Sunday, August 19 at Meeting Place Organic Farm. At the start of the session each participant had an opportunity to introduce themselves and their farm activities. This was followed by a discussion of ideas and concerns. The availability of land and the price were seen as challenges to entering farming, and the competition from land speculators and big farms getting bigger affect the rural community. There was also the concern that beginning farmers face challenges getting financing. There was some discussion of FarmLink type programs which help retiring farmers and new farmers connect. As well the experience in the Netherlands of secure long term tenure for tenant farmers was mentioned.
A short tour of the McQuail farm was followed by a potluck meal which included local beef burgers with a bountiful array of salads from the participants’ farms. A highlight of the evening was an opportunity to meet by Skype with National Youth Vice President, Paul Slomp. While it was not the same as having him present, the video capacity allowed for the participants to introduce themselves and then interact with Paul as he spoke about the history of the NFU and current issues like trade deals, local abattoirs, OSPCA, plant breeders’ rights and land grabbing. It was encouraging to participants to learn of the many areas that the NFU is working on. The use of Skype allowed local young farmers to feel more connected to the work of the national organization and have contact with a youth executive representative.
Participants at the Huron Young Farmer Gathering.
From left to right, Tony McQuail, Steven Scott, Bill van Zanten, Anna Poganatz, Johannes Poganatz, Elizabeth Poganatz, Matt Eagleson, Julian D’Cruz, Jim Papple.
The Renfrew County National Farmers Union Executive has instructed me to update you on what has transpired in respect to the devastating drought conditions in Renfrew County since the August 1st letter was forwarded to you. July 31st was the day the provincial government officially requested relief from the federal ministry under the Agri-Recovery Framework for disaster relief. The Federal Government was allowed a 45-day window to respond. At that time our farmers were encouraged that our governments had taken steps to discuss immediate assistance for farmers as was requested in the Renfrew County National Farmers Union’s previous proposal of recommendations dated July16th. For this action we are most appreciative.
Also we have been advised that a number of municipalities have sent correspondence to you supporting the above NFU’s request on behalf of Renfrew County farmers. On a point of information one organization sent a monetary donation to Renfrew County to be used to help out farmers who are in desperate need at this time.
- Speaking to area farmers in their 70’s the comment still is, “This is the worst drought in our lifetime.”
- Ground water is still depleting. Dried up ponds and water holes remain bone dry. Well drillers have seen an increase in business because of the drought. Many farmers are asking, “Should we drill that second well before winter sets in?”
- No substantial amount of rain has fallen in recent days. To regenerate the very low water levels, Renfrew County needs above average rainfall/snow (moisture) for the next ten to twelve months. In addition, the colour of the landscape has improved from the desert like colour. However, the growing season for most crops is finished or near finished. Therefore, there will be very minimal growth as September (first frost) is around the corner.
- Dry, blustery winds experienced almost daily lap up any moisture recently received.
- Hay and feed prices continue to increase ($80.00 a round bale plus transportation from as far as 200-300 miles away). Livestock is still being fed their winters supply of feed.
- With September just around the corner, farmers are unable to wait to stock their hay and feed reserves. Increased hardship and increased costs are involved when feed is moved under winter weather conditions.
In closing, when any major disaster occurs and people are suffering, action takes place quickly! Our farmers and animals are suffering a major drought disaster. Quick action is needed!
Again we sincerely request those in administration at both levels of government to fast track this situation and release drought disaster funding at your earliest convenience. Timing is key in a situation that Renfrew County family farmers find themselves in.
We thank you in advance.
President Renfrew County National Farmers Union
Directors’ Meeting Minutes – Aug. 16, 2012
Beachburg, ON – Dave Mackay, President of the Renfrew County National Farmers Union reports that members of the NFU attended the consultation meeting sponsored by Cheryl Gallant on Monday, August 27th to offer suggestions and ideas for the new Business Risk Management Program (BRM) intended to meet the needs of local farmers during times of low return. This meeting ironically coincided with a news release released only last week from our Ontario NFU office which stated:
The National Farmers Union (NFU) called on federal and provincial agriculture ministers to improve Business Risk Management programs under Growing Forward 2 by ensuring needed money will be directed to family farms instead of being used to help the biggest corporate farms grow even larger.
In a brief released last week, National Farmers Union recommendations regarding Business Risk Management Programs under Growing Forward 2, the NFU outlines ten policy recommendations that would improve the programs for the majority of farmers in Canada.
“NFU research shows that the largest farms are receiving an increasingly higher portion of farm program dollars,” said Ann Slater, Region 3 (Ontario) Coordinator. “The suite of BRM programs under Growing Forward 2 need to support the survival of small and medium sized family farms.”
“The agriculture budget is being cut back ten percent, according to the federal budget. We aren’t being given details of any planned cuts, but are being given hints that farmers will be asked to shoulder more risk,” said Terry Boehm, NFU President. “But in large part these BRM programs – other than AgriInsurance are needed because of the impacts of the government’s direction, especially their continued refusal to address the anti-competitive behavior of oligopolistic railways, grain companies, meat processors, seed and input suppliers.”
“Until we have a food sovereignty-based agri-food policy in Canada, there will be a need for safety net programs to help family farmers survive the on-going farm income crisis,” said Slater. “A new approach is needed for Canada’s agri-food policy – one which changes the balance of power within the food system and allows family farmers to receive a just livelihood.”
Locally, the Renfrew County National Farmers Union notes that the delivery of the current programs certainly does not meet the needs of our farmers. During this severe drought situation, farmers are very disgruntled and discouraged with the delivery of much needed assistance. This was evident at the well- attended public meeting last Tuesday in Cobden to discuss what assistance could be forthcoming to local farmers to help recover from the present disastrous drought. Mackay concluded the NFU presented a list of ten recommendations on paper for Cheryl Gallant to take to the Minister of Agriculture. The NFU will follow-up on these recommendations to see what happens.
The Executive of the Renfrew County National Farmers Union learned that Minister Ted McMeekin (Ontario Minister of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs), upon his tour of Renfrew County made an announcement on July 31st, 2012 stating, “The Province of Ontario has officially requested aid from the Federal Government under the AgriRecovery framework for disaster relief for farms in Eastern Ontario including Renfrew County.” Enclosed you will find copies of letters outlining the need for disaster relief already written to key representatives under dates July 16, 2012 and July 24, 2012, and photos of the drought devastation in Renfrew County.
We note in Ted McMeekin’s announcement that Agri Recovery is used only in extreme cases to “top-up” shortfalls in existing aid. May we point out that existing programs i.e. Agri Stability and other risk management programs are geared to cover losses within abnormal weather fluctuations, which can occur every five/six years. This present drought disaster is far beyond that –
- farmers are using their winter hay reserves in July and will have to continue into late summer/fall.
- farmers are stressed, livestock is stressed and pastures have completely depleted and water holes/wells are drying up
- hay prices due to a pending shortage are rising and in most cases farmers are short of cash to buy hay or to bring in feed from a distance
- cattle numbers at sale barns have increased and prices for cattle have dropped anywhere from 15% to 25% , thus causing another shortfall for farmers
- it is predicted that between 25-50% of Renfrew County’s cattle numbers may be sold off due to the drought. This will deplete the good genetics farmers have built up over the years and leave farm incomes in jeopardy for the coming years
- some crop farmers with forward contracts will have only 10% of their crop. They will be unable to fill their contracts and/or pay for their costly spring inputs
- other farmers including market gardeners, bee-keepers and maple syrup farmers are also greatly affected with bee-keepers estimating to gather approximately 30-40% of their average honey crops
- a drought of this caliber has the potential of leaving a lasting effect on family farms, agriculture- related businesses and the community as a whole
This drought is the worst drought in recorded history. Therefore, on behalf of all farmers in Renfrew County we sincerely ask The Hon. Gerry Ritz to move on a decision in respect to approving funding for our farmers via the Agri Recovery Program as soon as possible. Farmers in dire need cannot wait the forty-five day window allowed for his administration to come up with a decision on funding.
This letter is also addressed to influential elected officials and/or department heads who may be able to assist in speeding up the funding approval process.
The Renfrew County National Farmers Union, on behalf of its farmers will be awaiting a reply at your earliest convenience.
President Renfrew County National Farmers Union