Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The Producteurs de grains du Québec wants to make clear its support for the Canadian agricultural partnership, which seeks to grow domestic and foreign markets, strengthen competitiveness and competitive advantages, anticipate and manage risks more effectively, support resilience and environmental sustainability, foster public trust, and grow the value-added agri-food sector. All those goals are very positive. When they were established, we pointed out that achieving them would hinge on businesses being able to adapt to change, properly innovate and compete. Achieving them today hinges on stability over time, and as such, business risk management programs must be effective and reliable.
It's important to bear in mind that grain production involves numerous risks, including trade disputes, geopolitical conflicts, and the return of protectionism and support policies in the European Union and the U.S. Our competitors receive considerable financial support. To the list of risks, we can add growing market volatility, unpredictable weather, global warming and extreme weather events—involving more than just rising temperatures—and, of course, local societal requirements. In Canada, we face a number of social requirements, which is not necessarily the case for our competitors. On top of those risks, we are now dealing with COVID-19, a crisis we did not see coming. No one could've imagined a public health crisis of this magnitude or its swift impact on agriculture and the food supply chain here and around the world.
We are realizing that the business risk management tools are even more vital today than they were before. We want the government to understand that those tools are also strategic investments in the Canadian economy. Yes, they benefit the agricultural economy, but they also benefit the Canadian economy. As we see it, we hit a wall in 2013, when the government made significant changes to those tools, scaling back support. It was done when prices were way up, so the impact wasn't felt immediately by farmers.
Now, we are seeing that the business risk management programs no longer match the needs and are putting the sector at an international disadvantage. We currently have access to less support than our main competitors do, and we've seen significant reductions in our support. Under AgriStability, the government provides significantly less in benefits, $4 million less per year, on average, since 2013. In the case of AgriInvest, the figure is $130 million a year. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the already generous programs provided for under the farm bill received a boost. Recently, our neighbour to the south introduced new programs, the market facilitation program and the coronavirus food assistance program, providing $16 billion in additional funding.
All of that confirms our fears when it comes to our programs and their ability to meet our needs. Program supports here have declined sharply since 2007. From 2007 to 2019, support for Canadian agriculture fell rather drastically—81%, in fact. In contrast, support for the sector in the U.S. rose by 98% during the same period. The COVID-19 pandemic simply reaffirms what we've observed: we have neither the capacity nor the tools to meet the challenges that the next few years have in store. For that matter, the programs haven't been adequate to meet the challenges of the past two years, which now include the COVID-19 crisis.
We are very worried considering that grain producers were already in a vulnerable position. According to the Centre d'études sur les coûts de production en agriculture, an independent agency in Quebec that studies agricultural costs, 40% of farms specializing in grain production have trouble paying operators because of current prices, which will most likely change in the next few months.
As a spokesperson for grain farmers, I am here today to underscore the need to enhance Canada's programs. Since the government has to start somewhere, the first step should be restoring AgriStability to 2009 levels, in other words, rasing reference margin coverage to 85%.
In the mid-2000s, the government took a hard look at what the programs should look like. Together with industry stakeholders and producers, the government correctly identified future risks and designed strong programs such as AgriStability, with a coverage level of 85%, and AgriInvest, with a matching contribution of 1.5% of allowable net sales. The government also made cuts to AgriInvest, scaling back the matching contribution to 1%—a drop of 30%.
Back then, the thinking was that the programs should be proactive, predictable, acceptable and flexible. The key word, though, is stability. In 2009, income stabilization was the underlying principle for the programs. That was lost in 2013. It became clear from the government's statements, discussions and line of thinking that it wanted to move away from income stabilization in favour of disaster protection, which is now the role of those programs. They are meant to help in the event of a disaster. They are no longer adequate to help farmers deal with new risks or current needs.
The Producteurs de grains du Québec wants the government to stop shilly-shalllying over the subtleties and technicalities of the current programs and seriously contemplate how to fix them. The first step is to restore AgriStability coverage to 85%.