Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
And good afternoon everyone.
I'm Tina Namiesniowski, and I'm the assistant deputy minister of the programs branch at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Within my organization, we have responsibility for the AgriRecovery program.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak before this committee this afternoon. Joining me is my colleague, Rosser Lloyd, Director General of our Business Risk Management Program Directorate.
We certainly appreciate your focus on Canadian agriculture and food.
Canadian farmers are at the heart of a sector that's key to the Canadian economy and the lives of Canadians. It generates one in eight jobs, almost 7% of Canada's gross domestic product, over $50 billion in exports, and as you referred to, Mr. Chair, nutritious, high-quality food products for Canadians.
To help advance the core economic sector, Canadian farmers need access to effective programming to help them manage the various business risks they face on a daily basis. Weather, disease, insects, markets, and other risks all generate considerable volatility for Canadian farm businesses.
That is why the five-year federal-provincial-territorial “Growing Forward 2” framework includes a comprehensive suite of business risk management programs.
Also, the BRM, the business risk management suite, has three core programs: AgriInsurance, which assists producers experiencing production losses due to perils, including weather and disease-related events; AgriStability, which helps producers suffering severe income losses resulting from risks, such as low prices, rising input costs, and drops in production; and AgriInvest, which helps producers offset losses, strengthen cashflow, or make investments by drawing from a savings account of producer deposits matched by governments.
Together, these three programs position Canadian farmers well to deal with their business risks and the impact on their outcomes.
But when extreme natural events occur, producers may need additional support, beyond existing programs, to help them with the cost of actions necessary to recover and get back to business.
It's in these situations that we use the AgriRecovery framework, which is the focus of today's discussion.
In 2007, AgriRecovery was a new approach to how we manage ad hoc initiatives in response to disaster events. It's essentially a protocol and guidelines that assist F/P/T governments in determining, in those types of situations, if further assistance is required and the nature of that assistance.
Since its implementation in 2007, we've learned a lot about its use and implemented a number of changes. It brings F/P/T governments together to do the following.
They assess the impacts of natural disasters on agricultural producers; and, where there is need, offer assistance beyond the assistance already available through the existing program. They then respond with timely, targeted initiatives to help with the extraordinary costs of recovery.
The core BRM programs and AgriRecovery work together to provide Canadian farmers with the financial support that they need when natural disasters occur. We work with provinces or a territory to assess whether or not to trigger a response and in that context we take into account the scope and severity of the disaster, the extent of any extraordinary costs that must be incurred by a producer to recover, as well as the assistance farmers have through those core BRM programs.
I want to reiterate that AgriRecovery is a framework for developing a response to a natural disaster. It's not a program to which producers can apply as soon as a disaster occurs. When we reach agreement with a province or a territory that an AgriRecovery response is warranted, both levels of government must then obtain the required authorities for the response and negotiate the terms of the initiatives. AgriRecovery continues to help Canadian farmers get their businesses up and running after droughts, floods, and other disasters. Over the past six years governments have committed about $1 billion through almost 40 initiatives.
In relation to today's focus on the recent audit undertaken by the Office of the Auditor General, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada was pleased to see that the AG's report recognizes that the department properly apply the AgriRecovery criteria in assessing disasters to determine whether a response is needed, co-ordinated communications efforts with provinces once initiatives were approved, and met the combined ten and a half month timeline for two-thirds of the initiatives examined through the audit process.
That said, we fully recognize that there are opportunities to improve the timeliness of the AgriRecovery processes and payments particularly as mentioned by our Auditor General for low-value, less risky initiatives. We fully agree with the recommendations that were put forward in the audit report and are taking action on all four of them.
To address the first recommendation we've committed to analyze our recovery processes and the timeliness targets with provinces. We've also committed to identify impediments to timeliness and to take corrective action to meet these timelines, including process improvements on impediments identified with the provinces, strengthening assessments and agreements, and better tracking to flag problem assessments.
We have already taken steps to address the second recommendation by enhancing our electronic financial and reporting system so we can better track and report on AgriRecovery timelines on a real-time basis. This will help us track our progress in real time and make course corrections when needed on individual assessments.
We will assess risk for each AgriRecovery initiative and streamline administrative efforts based on the level of risk.
Finally, we will publicly communicate AgriRecovery's performance against our timeliness targets through the departmental performance report starting this year.
In conclusion, we're taking action to improve our service to farmers and our accountability to taxpayers. Once again, we thank the committee for focusing on the framework and look forward to today's discussions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.