Thank you, Jeff.
Now, for the good news. We believe there are easily achievable solutions to help farmers and to protect the Canadian economy. We have very specific, very actionable requests for you today.
First, as a sector, we are asking for two critical changes to the AgriStability program. The changes are as follows: Coverage must immediately be adjusted to cover losses, starting at 85% retroactive to 2019 and for the remainder of the Canadian agricultural partnership; and the reference margin limits must be removed. These two simple changes will give farmers the confidence to keep operating.
As members of the committee know, we are not alone in seeking changes to AgriStability. The fact is that this change is the one that unites essentially all agricultural sectors.
While it is a positive signal that the application deadline for this program was extended, we do not see it inspiring more farmers to apply. Farmers simply don’t see enough value in the program to put in the time and effort required to enrol, and unfortunately, an online calculator isn't going to change their minds.
However, we commend the federal government on some of the other business risk management programs for farmers that work well, including AgriInvest and crop insurance. These are success stories and valuable tools for farmers, ones that cannot afford to have funds diverted away to bolster or address the concerns we have cited here today. These programs need to continue to be complementary in nature.
Finally, we understand that the cost of the current program is shared sixty-forty between federal and provincial governments, and that provincial governments are currently facing their own financial challenges. This is why we are seeking leadership from the federal government on this. We need our federal leaders to renegotiate the cost load.
As we look toward recovery, this is definitely not the time for government to abandon its vision for agriculture as a high potential sector for economic growth in Canada. As stated in the report of Canada’s economic strategy tables, Canada has the potential to be one of the top five competitors on the international stage, increasing agriculture, agri-food and seafood exports by 32% to $85 billion by 2025. This is a laudable goal, and it is one that the entire sector supports. However, it can only come to fruition if Canadian farms remain solvent and are able to succeed.
We are at a crossroads. We can choose to support Canadian farmers now and allow for that potential to be realized, or we can choose to abandon Canadian farmers and lose the vision for a real economic recovery and future prosperity for our farms.