September 06, 2021


The Calgary Sun
Final Editorial/Opinion


I've been kicking around federal politics for 13 years now, so it shouldn't surprise me when a headline for a newspaper story doesn't mesh with the facts.

Often it doesn't even match the story, and if people bother to read the entire article or do a little digging for the truth, they'd roll their eyes at the obvious attempt to simply sell a newspaper. Such was the case with CP's headline: "Unpopular farm program can't be scrapped as promised: Tories."

The program they're referring to is the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization, or CAIS.

When CAIS was brought in by the federal Liberals, they simply ignored warnings about its obvious failings: Impossible to understand applications, limited access to negative margin coverage, not responsive to disasters, a hopeless "inventory valuation" system, no Internet or computer access for applicants and an aggressive "clawback" that gave with one hand and took away with the other.

Some farmers waited a year for an expected payment. Worst of all, nobody could understand or predict what the payout would be for deserving producers.

It truly was the ugly duckling of farm programs. Nobody wanted it, and nobody loved it.

After the election, fixing some of these problems was a priority. Our campaign promise was to replace CAIS with separate income stabilization and disaster programs. That's exactly where we're headed.

We started by committing $900 million to fix the inventory valuation system and made it retroactive to the start of the program in 2003.

Cheques as a result of this change will begin going out this fall. The provinces and territories agreed to help fund changes to the negative margins (coverage for farmers who have higher expenses than income), so that put another $80 million into the mix. We started the disaster relief discussion by helping flooded farmers with a $50−million cover crop protection program (outside of CAIS), and are committed to a federal/provincial plan for broader disaster assistance.

This is all in addition to accelerating delivery of the $755−million payout to grains and oilseeds producers. And while all of these changes will put money in farmers' pockets by the end of the year, I also placed a moratorium on the clawbacks that were driving farmers and their accountants crazy.

I've been getting advice from farmers about what works and doesn't in the medley of farm programs and we're working on new performance standards. More changes are on the way.

The agriculture file is complex, and since it is shared with the provinces and territories, it is often not possible or wise to move unilaterally at the federal level.

That's why we've held two federal/provincial/territorial agriculture ministers' meetings in the past seven months to design better programming for all farmers.

We're also working on improvements to production insurance and will roll out a biofuels opportunities program this fall. Further consultations on a replacement to the current federal/provincial/territorial agricultural policy framework will begin soon, and farmers and their representatives will be involved.

We are absolutely committed to replacing CAIS with separate catastrophic disaster assistance and income stabilization programs that are responsive, predictable, bankable, and transparent for farmers.

That's what we promised and we intend to deliver.

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