Ottawa set to move on AgriRecovery

Following an appeal from western provinces, the federal government says it is prepared to help producers impacted by ongoing drought conditions through the AgriRecovery program.

Officials are organizing meetings to discuss specifics, but the program is designed to offer disaster-specific relief “in situations where producers do not have the capacity to cover the extraordinary costs, even with the assistance available from other programs.”

Agricultural ministers from across Canada met July 15 to discuss a variety of issues, and an official readout following the meeting said they “expressed their concern for farmers and workers dealing with the current heat waves, wildfires and drought conditions.”

A separate communication from federal agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said she is working closely with her provincial partners to respond to the “evolving drought situation.”

“My heart goes out to those farmers and ranchers feeling the impacts of the extreme heat wave and drought conditions,” her statement said.

Saskatchewan agriculture minister David Marit called on Bibeau to approve the province’s AgriRecovery request for additional supports.

In a letter, Marit said his government is prepared to work with officials to determine program requirements.

“We are also open to discussion with our federal and provincial colleagues to assess the situation and consider possible AgriRecovery solutions together.”

Saskatchewan is supporting the creation of a working group.

In Alberta, agriculture minister Devin Dreeshen said in a statement his government has “received verbal commitment from Ottawa that a joint AgriRecovery program will be initiated to support Prairie producers affected by drought conditions prior to (a federal) election.”

Manitoba agriculture minister Ralph Eichler called the drought his immediate priority.

Meanwhile, Bibeau is hoping the disaster will prompt provinces to accept her long-standing offer to make changes to AgriStability. In her statement, she said invoking the late participation provision of AgriStability “to allow more producers to access the support the program provides” was discussed with the provinces.

Ottawa has offered to increase the compensation rate offered to producers to 80 percent (it’s at 70 now), which would add “$75 million nationally into the pockets of farmers who need it the most every year” according to Bibeau.

Appeals to government to take action have poured in as high heat and drought conditions continue to plague producers across large swaths of Canada, particularly on the Prairies.

Drought relief programming managed through AgriRecovery to assist with feed and water shortages, as well as impacts from wildfires, are among the asks of farm groups.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is also requesting a livestock tax deferral provision be put in place so producers in designated areas can temporarily defer paying taxes on livestock sales impacted by the drought.

Bibeau’s office had not yet responded to any specific requests about potential programming or funding to be made under AgriRecovery.