Ontario organization to administer some Prairie advances

New player Ontario’s ACC wants to expand in the West, but only into crops that aren’t covered now

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Farmers taking out cash advances on their crops this year will see some changes in who is administering the programs.

As the Canadian Canola Growers Association expands its administration to take over the crops formerly handled by the Canadian Wheat Board, a new player has emerged to manage the program for several commodities in Ontario and for speciality crops across the country.

ACC Farmers’ Financial (ACC), Canada’s second-largest cash advances administrator, announced an agreement March 13 with Farmers of North America (FNA) to offer Ontario farmers ACC’s national farm cash Advance Payments Program and provincial Commodity Loan Program.

ACC is a not-for-profit Ontario-based agency comprised of 19 producer associations and marketing boards. It administers cash advances on around 50 crops, including cereal and oilseed crops in Ontario. But it also administers cash advances for farmers on a number of different crops across the country.

In a joint news release, ACC and FNA said someday FNA might assist horticultural crop producers in British Columbia and the three Prairie Provinces with cash advances.

“We’re the only ones that do things nationally, so we do flowers nationally, nursery and landscape nationally, the greenhouse industry,” ACC’s CEO Jaye Atkins said in an interview.

“We’re doing everything from cranberries in Nova Scotia to chrysanthemums in British Columbia to ginseng in Ontario to goat meat in Quebec. We’re operating in just about every province today under one commodity or another, but also not interfering with organizations such as the canola growers.”

Atkins says it has no plans to poach from the largest administrator, the Canadian Canola Growers Association.

“We have no intention of going out and dealing with canola and wheat board crops (in the West),” Atkins said in an interview. For one thing, federal legislation doesn’t allow it, he said.

However a different message was coming from Terry Drabiuk, FNA’s vice-president of operations, who suggested someday ACC, with FNA’s assistance, might deliver cash advances in the West on crops such as wheat, which the Canadian Canola Growers Association currently administers.

“We’re going to start in Ontario where they’re (ACC) strong and then we’ll move to B.C. after that,” Drabiuk. “Then they will be in discussions how they deal with wheat and barley and that stuff here (in the West).”

Drabiuk also suggested the canola growers might be swamped having taken over cash advances on wheat, durum and barley from the Canadian Wheat Board.

The canola growers’ has everything under control, general manager Rick White said in an interview March 15. Eighteen new employees have been hired and trained to work on the cash advance program, he said.

“We are the biggest administrator now,” White said. “We know what we’re doing. We’re ramped right up ready for the new program.”

In fact, the program for wheat, durum and barley has been operating since March 1, although cheques can’t be issued until April 1, he said.

“We’re in as good of shape as we can possibly be.”

More work

The canola growers’ association has 55 employees, 45 of whom work primarily on cash advances for 20 different crops grown in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

Working with FNA makes sense for Ontario commodity groups, Atkins said, because both organizations want to assist farmers.

“Our intention is to grow the business and what FNA is doing for us is it’s trying to promote the application process for ACC,” he said.

No matter who is administering it, under the cash advance program farmers can borrow up to $100,000 interest-free and another $300,000 at low-interest rates. The loans, which are repaid when farmers sell their crops, provides cash flow allowing farmers to hold their crops until prices improve.

The first cash advance program was introduced for wheat board crops in 1957 by John Diefenbaker’s Conservative government.

A separate, but similar program, was introduced in 1977 for non-board crops.

In 1989 the Mulroney Conservative government killed the interest-free portion of the program, but increased the amount farmers could borrow at low interest rates.

In 1996 the Chretien Liberal government combined the separate cash advance acts and re-instated interest-free loans.

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