Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the committee for inviting us to be with you today.
Nothing is more important to young farmers across Canada today than BRM programs. There are increasingly higher risks to grow crops and raise livestock. Be it weather, markets or politics, the forecast for bringing young bright minds into agriculture is becoming a more and more distant dream for many.
The decline in participation in BRM programs isn't difficult to understand when margins and competition in global markets intensify. Global buyers of Canadian goods can change their minds when ships come to port, causing great strain on the commodity stream and pricing. As farmers we plan many years in advance to mitigate risks that we cannot control, only to have the best planning practices still not be enough.
Strong BRM programs are needed if we intend to wake the sleeping giant that is agriculture in Canada. BRM is an investment in Canada and should not be looked at as a handout to the many struggling farmers across Canada.
I know that the committee has talked at length about AgriStability. I don't claim to be an expert, but from a young farmer's experience it is nothing short of confusing. There are more non-qualifying expenses than qualifying, and we likely could talk at length on just those things.
One in particular I will point out is the family wage not being a qualifying expense. If we are going to encourage young people in agriculture, don't you think their salaries should qualify as an expense? I understand the reasoning behind that decision, but I don't think the masses should be punished by a select few who would have the capacity to do so.
Raising the reference margin payment trigger would ensure that the program is responsive to new farms facing higher overhead costs associated with debt servicing, which is another ineligible program expense. Honestly, one of the biggest improvements would be to simplify the calculation by removing the reference margin limit so that farmers don't need to question whether they're getting a 70% payment on 70% of the reference margin, or a 70% payment on 70% of 70% of their reference margin. I'm sure that was confusing to you, because it's confusing to farmers across Canada as well.
Removing the RML looks to be the most logical step towards improving program simplicity. This would not only help predictability, but would also encourage more participants in the program. Most importantly, it would support agriculture in Canada. I think that's a choice that we as Canadians are going to have to make in the not-too-distant future. Do we want to eat Canadian-grown and raised food? Do we want to produce prosperity in rural communities across the country?
AgriInvest's limit and matching percentage on allowable net sales should also be increased if you want to encourage young farmers in the program. This potentially could be addressed through a different percentage of allowable net sales that qualify for matching funding for those in the first five years of operation, such as for new entrants.
AgriInsurance varies province to province. It's an important tool to mitigate risk, especially for young farmers. Weather is changing, and our programs will have to change to match it. Premiums are high, and that's the reason some choose to self-insure. In a lot of cases, young farmers don't have a choice but to insure, even with the high cost, to make sure they can even make it to five years of operations.
Having the crop loss years included in the five-year average should be reconsidered. I'll give you an example. Having eight bushels of soybeans is a disaster. Put that against your 50-bushel average over five years and you drop your average by 17%. By having multiple claims in five years, your average is so low you might not participate in the program and/or continue farming.
You don't have to look far to see how other countries support agriculture. I'm not saying that we want these countries' systems, but that we need to update our programs. Canadian agriculture is one of the most diverse in the world, and complicated in itself; that, I think, we can all agree on.
From here I'm going to pass to my colleague, Julie.