By Nathan Stevens
July 8, 2011
Last week’s formal announcement of a Risk Management Program is arguably one of the most significant accomplishments for Ontario’s agricultural groups in a long time. From the perspective of agricultural leaders, this is a program that has been fought for over an extended time period that seeks to address needs for Ontario’s farmers in a global environment. The next step is to see whether the average farmer agrees with this assessment and chooses to support the new program by enrolling in it.
The purpose of the Risk Management Program is to provide price insurance for farmers. It differs from the national Agristability program in the type of issues it covers. Agristability provides support for commodities that fluctuate over the short-term. It is not designed to help with long-term decline or extended periods of low prices, even if crisis related. The Risk Management Program seeks to deal with both of those issues and more.
From the perspective of the leadership, this program is a great new tool for farmers to use in the management of their farms. There is still work to be done and some issues to be addressed. Resolving a fair registration and payment method to be enrolled in both Agristability and Risk Management is an issue. Securing federal support is an on-going issue. For the Christian Farmers, ensuring that there are reasonable caps on potential payments is essential to ensuring this is a risk mitigation tool, not a lever to expand an operation.
At the same time, this is an opportunity for farmers to vote with their feet on the new program. Strong enrollment in the program, even if prices are looking strong in the immediate future, is a strong endorsement of the value of having this program in place for a rainy day, especially when it isn’t raining today. On the other hand, if a majority of farmers choose not to enrol then that also sends a clear message to leadership and government about the value of Risk Management and other safety net programming.
The adoption of the Risk Management Program is a potentially tremendous step forward for Ontario’s farmers. It improves the protection farmers have from the vagaries of the marketplace, and is strongly supported by the farming leadership. The CFFO hopes and encourages everyday farmers to decide that the Risk Management Program makes sense for them as well.
Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.