Evidence of meeting #18 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was producers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Léopold Bourgeois  President, New Brunswick Agricultural Insurance Commission, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick
Andre Harpe  Director, Grain Growers of Canada
Erin Gowriluk  Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada
Peter Slade  Assistant Professor and Canadian Canola Growers Chair in Agricultural Policy, University of Saskatchewan, As an Individual

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Andre, would it be better, as Peter was mentioning, for more of an insurance program that is based on margin than revenue? Would AgriInvest be a better program than fiddling with AgriStability, which doesn't seem to be bankable or timely?

What would be the preference, in your opinion?

5:45 p.m.

Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Andre Harpe

It's really interesting, and that's going to be a tough one to answer.

There's a suite of programs right now, and each program fits very well at different times. If you look at what we have right now with AgriStability, it's obviously not working. If you look at AgriInvest, basically you are asking producers to put some money in and you will match that money. So I—

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Harpe. Unfortunately, we've run out of time.

Thank you, Mr. Barlow.

Now we'll go to Mr. Louis, for up to six minutes.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

I would like to split my time with Mr. Finnigan.

I want to thank everyone for being here. A few minutes is not enough, as you are all so full of knowledge. It's wonderful to hear from you.

I appreciate your patience, Mr. Slade, in getting the IT stuff worked on and out of the way.

Maybe I could start by talking to Mr. Harpe and Ms. Gowriluk from the Grain Growers of Canada.

I've had meetings with the Ontario grain growers and a number of farmers in my region. There are numerous sectors and numerous groups. We all want to help out these sectors to the best of our abilities in both the short term and the long term, as we've mentioned.

Just hearing the story of your farm, Mr. Harpe, how long it's been around and its resilience.... I know that different sectors are affected in different ways. We're trying to get a feel for who's being affected more and who's doing better. I'm wondering if you could compare the grains sector with other sectors and say which sectors might be doing better or be harder hit.

5:45 p.m.

Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Andre Harpe

Erin, do you have a better feel for that?

5:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Erin Gowriluk

With respect to the committee's study on business risk management, I think one of the reasons you're hearing consistently from a variety of different associations and different stakeholders and commodities around this one particular ask for AgriStability is that it provides targeted support to the farmers and commodities that need it most. Any form of ad hoc support....

We saw this with the government announcement for the $252 million about three weeks ago. Inevitably, it picks winners and losers. That's why I think AgriStability, despite a lot of its flaws, provides that targeted support to the farmers who, regardless of what they grow and what they raise, most need the support. With these changes, it will provide more meaningful support.

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you. I appreciate it.

Here's a quick question for you, Mr. Slade, in the same vein. Provinces are stepping up in different ways as well. We know that this is a cost-sharing program. Can you say whether certain provinces are stepping up, more and less? Is there a bit of a scale there as well?

5:45 p.m.

Assistant Professor and Canadian Canola Growers Chair in Agricultural Policy, University of Saskatchewan, As an Individual

Peter Slade

Obviously, we'll be seeing certain provinces.... In terms of AgriRecovery, most western provinces are stepping up to match the federal government's spending on that. There seems to be a fairly wide degree of buy-in from all provinces.

Mr. Bourgeois has perhaps a different perspective on that. I'm not too familiar with the Atlantic provinces. In western Canada, certainly, I think there's broad provincial support.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you. I appreciate it.

I'd like to share my time with you, Mr. Chair.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Tim. Thanks for the opportunity.

I would like to put my questions to Léopold.

May I call you Léopold? We have known each other for a long time, and you know me by my first name.

As you said, the Atlantic provinces are not really treated like the rest of the country. All sorts of programs miss the boat, as we say. As a producer and the owner of an apple orchard, can you tell us what a predictable program would look like, which would offer protection and support to producers to enable them to have stability and grow their production, especially local production?

Can you give us an example of a dream program? I am not talking about a Cadillac, but a program that would work.

5:50 p.m.

President, New Brunswick Agricultural Insurance Commission, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick

Léopold Bourgeois

That is a broad question.

I give you the example of our farm. We have been producing apples for 40 years and we have participated in all the available programs, or almost all of them, including AgriInsurance, AgriStability and AgriInvestment. We have never been able to benefit from the AgriRecovery initiatives because that required the province's participation. However, I think that potato producers have been able to use it in the past.

The crop insurance program helped us a few times at the Fleur du pommier, our old farm. Now I work more as a consultant for other farms. What has benefited us the most is AgriInvestment, which twice helped us get through a difficult year. One of the years was when prices were very low, even though we had a solid production. Thanks to AgriInvestment, where we had money, we overcame the crisis.

I would like AgriInvestment to work better and more easily. The issue always affects newcomers and those who have dried out their accounts after two or three difficult years in a row, which sometimes happens, but not often. That is what has been happening over the past two years in the Atlantic provinces. A way must be found to rebuild those accounts. It could be very easy I think and would help save a great deal on administration fees.

When it comes to crop insurance, things have been difficult for us. As you are saying, there are all sorts of crops in the province. In the Atlantic region, there are a few large crops, such as apples and potatoes, but the production of most other products is done on a small scale. Producers would still like to have the option to be covered. Small vegetable producers are covered to an extent, as there is a program that insures various vegetables. However, that program is not easy to access or to measure. It protects to a certain level, but that protection is not very high.

As a result, I think that the AgriInvestment program would be the best option to help newcomers start their business if there is a way to enhance it.

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Léopold.

I will not go over my time, but I want to remind you of the old net income stabilizing account, which was a Cadillac-type program. It would be good if we could find something similar.

Let's now go to the next member.

Mr. Perron, you have six minutes.

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Chair, thank you for chairing the committee, even when you are the one asking the questions.

I also want to thank our guests for being with us and for their patience with our technical difficulties.

I will start with you, Mr. Bourgeois, by following up on the idea brought up by the chair, in terms of what an ideal program would be. You talked about AgriStability and its current program margin of 70% of the reference margin. You want that margin to be brought back up to 80%, but most of the people who have spoken to us were aiming for 85%. If AgriStability provided a program margin of 85% and the reference margin was done away with, would that solve a good portion of your problems?

5:50 p.m.

President, New Brunswick Agricultural Insurance Commission, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick

Léopold Bourgeois

It would definitely help us a lot. People from the west made the same comment at the meeting and the same things are being said in our neck of the woods.

I talked about 80%, but 85% would definitely be better. People have used this program in the past, but they no longer use it now. We lack data in this respect, but we are sure that the participation rate has dropped a great deal.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

You talked about AgriInvestment as a program that could be ideal, at the end of the day. We don't have much time and are trying to come to conclusions. So correct me if I'm wrong in understanding that you want a much more generous AgriInvestment program to replace the other programs. Did I understand you correctly?

5:55 p.m.

President, New Brunswick Agricultural Insurance Commission, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick

Léopold Bourgeois

You did understand me correctly.

That could be one of the options. We feel that four programs are too many. I know that each has its own role to play to a point, but their coexistence makes things extremely complicated.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

If AgriStability was simplified a great deal by being moved toward income insurance, as Mr. Slade was proposing, could that simplify the situation?

5:55 p.m.

President, New Brunswick Agricultural Insurance Commission, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick

Léopold Bourgeois

Yes, I agree with that.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

In your industry, have you looked into a different type of support upstream in agriculture, such as amounts allocated for shoreline protection or for dynamic territory settlement, among others?

June 17th, 2020 / 5:55 p.m.

President, New Brunswick Agricultural Insurance Commission, Agricultural Alliance of New Brunswick

Léopold Bourgeois

We have thought about it, but we have not had many discussions on it. That could be interesting.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Okay. Thank you very much.

Ms. Gowriluk, we have talked to each other a few times already, and I'm starting to understand you better. I understand very well that you want an immediate measure when it comes to AgriStability. You have talked about a threshold that should be raised back up to 85%, and most people agree with that. I have two questions for you.

If income rather than the margin was insured, as Mr. Slade was proposing, would that be a worthwhile measure to simplify the process?

5:55 p.m.

Executive Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Erin Gowriluk

You're asking me a more technical question about the program, and I'm going to defer to my expert, Mr. Harpe, who has used the program in the past.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Okay.

5:55 p.m.

Director, Grain Growers of Canada

Andre Harpe

On the revenue side of things, it would be really interesting to see what shape that would take. With the right shape, it would probably work really well. Basically, for ease of use on the producer side and on the government side, going back to the way it was would be a really easy transition for everybody.

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Okay, I understand what you're saying. Thank you.

Have you already considered more upstream type of protection, similar to what I was saying to Mr. Bourgeois, which would not necessarily be related to losses?

It would rather be amounts you would be allocated, for example, to settle territory and for your efforts in environmental protection, among other areas.