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AgriStability Program deadline extended due to dry conditions, wildfires

By Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News
33684388_web1_farm
(Black Press file photo)

By Samantha Johnson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

The AgriStability Program has been running for several years to help producers.

Usually, the program requires enrolment in the spring, but this year it has been reopened for late participation, with the deadline extended until Sept. 29.

“The Government of Alberta and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada have reopened the program recognizing that wildfires and extremely dry conditions have affected many farmers and ranchers since the April 30 enrolment deadline,” Callum Reid, press secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation stated by email.

The program is a $3.5-billion provincial, territorial and federal initiative offered through Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership to strengthen competitiveness, innovation and resiliency of the agriculture. In Alberta, benefits from AgriStability are accessed through the Agriculture Financial Services Corporation. Factors used to determine a potential benefit include reduced income, increased expenses and reduced inventory.

“Alberta’s government understands producers rely on business risk management (BRM) programs to offset the financial impact of many challenges. We are continuing to work with the federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments to make BRM programs more responsive, equitable and timely.

“During the annual conference of FPT Ministers of Agriculture in July, the ministers committed to ensuring that producers have access to a full suite of business risk management programs that are timely and reliable. In view of this, the ministers committed to continually improve BRM programs to support farmers and ranchers. In addition, they agreed to implement an optional new model for AgriStability that would help ensure timeliness, simplicity and predictability,” said Reid.

Cypress County is in year seven of a state of agriculture disaster, but Coun. Blaine Brost doesn’t believe this program has been much help to local producers.

“It hasn’t been doing the job it’s there for,” said Brost. “I know many producers that have opted out of it because they are so far behind in their processing, anywhere from two to four years behind. Nobody has been getting any payments from it and lots of people are getting very frustrated.”

Brost acknowledged he doesn’t know the entire realm of how the program works or the structure of it, but he has personal experience with the program and found it too complicated. Additionally, the program doesn’t align with most producers’ year-end, especially with cattle producers.

“You’re calving in one year, maybe selling some in the fall and some in the next spring. Purebred producers sell bulls as two-year-olds and the process is very complicated,” stated Brost.

Brodie Haugan, chair of Alberta Beef Producers, stated by email, “Alberta Beef Producers is working with Agriculture Financial Services Corporation and the Government of Alberta to identify potential augmentations to BRM programs like AgriStability.

“While AgriStability works well for operators in the feeder and hog sectors, improvements are needed to make it more relevant for the cow-calf sector. In the meantime, producers can reach out to their local AFSC representative if they have any questions or concerns around current programming. We look forward to continued collaboration with stakeholders on the business risk management suite of programs.”

There is a suite of business risk management programs governments offer to help producers manage significant risks that threaten the viability of their farm and are beyond their capacity to manage, and AgriStability is one of them.

“It is a margin-based program designed to protect producers against large declines in farming income due to production loss, increased costs and market conditions,” wrote Reid. “AgriStability compensates margin declines greater than 30 per cent at 80 cents for every dollar of decline, which is an increase from the previous 70 cents. Payments to those who sign up through late participation will be reduced by 20 per cent to encourage proactive enrolment.”

For more information about the program, visit AFSC: AgriStability.