Good times gone, farm aid back on the agenda

Alberta farm leaders have been cool to seeking additional aid, but wicked weather
 and plunging prices may be changing that view

It was a good day for snowmobiling on Sept. 9 but not for harvesting. Almost two-year-old Blake Nelson is pictured in front of his Uncle 
Jay Schultz’s unharvested 
wheat field near Rosebud.  
Photo: Craig Nelson
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Alberta farm leaders have stayed on the sidelines while their Prairie counterparts have been lobbying for improved farm support programs — but that may soon change.

This month’s snowstorm and early frost coupled with the massive American harvest that has “hammered” the futures markets has dramatically changed the outlook in Alberta, said Greg Porozni, president of Cereals Canada.

“We haven’t discussed this yet, but we will be,” said Porozni, who farms near Mundare and is also a director with the Alberta Wheat Commission. “After harvest, I guess all the commissions will be discussing this.”

Most of the crop commissions met in July when the outlook on yield and quality was good, and price prospects weren’t nearly as gloomy.

“We knew there was a possibility of a big crop at the time and prices were correcting,” said Porozni. “But since then, it has been a free fall.”

No one wants a handout, but many farmers are facing a grim situation, says Greg Porozni.
No one wants a handout, but many farmers are facing a grim situation, says Greg Porozni. photo: AWC

As soon as this harvest is over, directors will consider asking Ottawa for increased assistance.

For Porozni, the biggest issue is changes to AgriStability that were made in 2012 when it was a time of plenty — grain and oilseed prices at record levels and optimism soaring even higher. Those 2012 changes require a 30 per cent drop in margin (down from 15 per cent) in order to qualify for a payment.

“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,” said Porozni.

Producers could really benefit from the program today, he noted.

“It’s kind of bizarre in that context,” he said. “I know what the problem is, but we haven’t discussed the solution yet. The tricky part is to try and formulate a solution that is realistic… With the programs we have right now, let’s be honest, it’s not going to be a lot of money.”

It also takes a long time for money to flow, he added.

“Unless you had applied for an advance, it’s probably a year out depending on what your year-end is. Cash flow will be a concern, no doubt about it.”

Farmers need to speak up if they want better farm support, says Gary Stanford.
Farmers need to speak up if they want better farm support, says Gary Stanford. Farmers need to speak up if they want better farm support, says Gary Stanford. photo: AWC

AgriStability is one of a trio in Ottawa’s ‘agri’ suite of programs, and the Grain Growers of Canada will work co-operatively with federal officials to find ways to improve all three, said Gary Stanford, the group’s president.

“Some of the other provinces want a higher AgriInvest, so you can put money in there if you have a problem,” said Stanford, who farms near Magrath. “Other provinces want a better AgriStability, so if there is a wreck they can get money out of it. With the AgriRecovery, can we get compensation if there’s a disaster?”

Stanford said his group will be meeting with federal officials this winter.

Any producer with concerns about these programs or how they should be reformed should speak to the crop commissions so their views can be passed along, he said.

Alberta’s Agricultural Financial Services Corporation programs offer better recovery and crop insurance than some of the programs in some of the other provinces, noted Stanford, who is also an Alberta Wheat Commission director.

This may be why Alberta’s farm leaders haven’t been as bullish on AgriStability, he said.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Kienlen

Alexis Kienlen lives in Edmonton and has been writing for Alberta Farmer since 2008. Originally from Saskatoon, Alexis is also the author of two collections of poetry, a biography, and a novel called "Mad Cow."

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