by SUSAN MANN
A majority of Ontario farmers enrolling in the province’s agricultural risk management programming has kept AgriStability even though this is the first year it’s no longer mandatory to have that program to get the Ontario coverage.
Previously, if farmers in eligible commodities wanted the province’s risk management coverage, they also had to sign up for AgriStability. It protects producers against large margin declines and is part of the safety net programs included in the federal/provincial/territorial governments’ policy framework called Growing Forward 2.
Introduced in 2011, Ontario’s risk management program helps farmers protect against risks beyond their control, such as fluctuating costs and market prices. It covers grains and oilseeds, beef, pork, veal and sheep and edible horticulture.
Last year, Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal severed the link between AgriStability and the province’s business risk management program at the request of the Ontario Agriculture Sustainability Coalition, which is made up of groups representing beef, pork, sheep, veal and grains/oilseeds farmers.
Agricorp spokesperson Stephanie Charest says the trends for AgriStability participation this year “are consistent with previous years.” This year, 14,702 producers enrolled in AgriStability.
Charest says 9.8 per cent of AgriStability customers cancelled coverage this year compared to the average cancellation rate of 5.6 per cent during the past eight years. It’s normal to see annual fluctuations in program participation, she adds. Furthermore, “these figures are consistent with declines in AgriStability participation across the country.”
Several factors contributed to customers cancelling coverage, such as farm consolidations, changing markets, diversification on farms, program policy changes, a farm’s crop mix, and weather or disease trends, she says.
Ontario farmers’ participation in AgriStability is consistent with their use of the business risk management program and production insurance, Charest says. About 10,000 farmers participate in the Ontario business risk management program, while 15,000 use production insurance.
Mark Wales, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association safety net section, says it’s good news the removal of mandatory participation in AgriStability isn’t the sole reason for the decline in the program’s uptake. “We’ve been trying to remind people that despite our concerns with the drop in the AgriStability program coverage under Growing Forward 2, it’s still better than no program at all.”
Farmers can still trigger an AgriStability payment when their production margin (the net income for the year) falls below 70 per cent of their reference margin (the farm’s average production margin for three of the past five years. The lowest and highest margins are dropped from the calculation).
“It (AgriStability) is still a worthwhile program to be in as part of your farm’s total risk management package,” Wales says. BF