OFA: Feds leave farmers in uncompetitive market position

By Mark Reusser, Vice President, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Despite commitments to support Canadian agriculture through this challenging year, the federal government is falling short on supporting farmers facing financial stress as a result of global trade disruptions.

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Agricultural ministers from across Canada collectively agreed at their mid-July meeting that the current safety net system is inadequate and have committed to identifying necessary improvements to the AgriStability program. This discussion took place at the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Agriculture Ministers meeting, where the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), along with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) urged the ministers and federal government to enhance the AgriStability program and support farmers facing unfair financial challenges caused by trade disruptions that are out of their control.

Although the ministers rightly reaffirmed support to supply managed industries for damage caused by trade negotiation outcomes, the federal government refused to commit funding to assist other farmers dealing with limited marketing options and depressed market prices as a result of ongoing trade wars.

The U.S. just announced a second round of a multi-commodity support. These payments of up to $150 per acre to U.S. farmers will begin in mid-to-late August for commodities including corn, wheat and soybeans. This new farm aid plan is on top of the United States Department of Agriculture’s $12 billion plan in 2018 to compensate growers for lower grain prices and lost sales resulting from the ongoing U.S. trade disputes with China.

Canadian farmers are being left on an extremely tilted playing field when it comes to being competitive in our domestic and global markets. It’s tough to remain sustainable when the current risk management system is recognized as inadequate and our governments do not even consider competing with the political largesse of our main competitor who brought on the pain.

Right now, Canadian farmers are facing depressed markets for commodities including beef, pork and soybeans. This damage is clearly caused by trade wars, as the U.S. has recognized and is compensating for. The federal government has correctly recognized the need to compensate for trade damages. It is time they stepped up and worked for the sustainability of all Canadian farmers.

Discussions will continue with our agricultural ministers and OFA and our commodity partners are advocating for solutions to the AgriStability program to address ongoing issues and immediate support as these trade disruptions continue. OFA will be monitoring this issue closely, making sure the government does not fall short on their commitment to supporting our industry.