An Open Letter from Canada’s Grain Farmers – Leadership on BRM Programs Needed Now

The following letter was sent to all Federal and Provincial agriculture Ministers across Canada on November 21, 2019 on behalf of all members of Grain Growers of Canada.

Dear Ministers,

The Grain Growers of Canada are calling Canadian Agriculture Ministers to recognize the crisis facing grain farmers across the country and immediately fix the AgriStability program.

The effectiveness of AgriStability was severely reduced in 2013 when significant cuts were made, including a reduction of coverage of reference margins from 85 to 70 per cent, which caused many farmers to withdraw from the program due to its ineffectiveness.

Farmers cannot wait any longer, global trade uncertainty and volatile weather is impacting every single grain farmer across the country this year. Early winter has left farmers with crop in the field unharvested, and the crop that is harvested faces prices that in some cases don’t cover the cost of growing it.

On Dec. 17, 2019, Canada’s agriculture ministers will meet in Ottawa to discuss improvements to Agri-Stability.

GGC members are calling on ministers to restore Agri-Stability to its former levels and thus restore farmers’ confidence in the program. Coverage should be immediately adjusted to cover losses starting at 85 per cent of historical reference margins and Reference Margin Limits should be eliminated. Farmers need this change to be available for the 2019 crop year.

Weather across Canada has left many farmers with low quality grain or grain unable to be harvested.

A hurricane flattened fields in Atlantic Canada – Quebec and Ontario faced unprecedented rainfall during planting and snow-covered fields for harvest – farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and the BC Peace country, have had areas of drought, excess rainfall, hail and snow. Crops have been downgraded due to these factors and some may not be harvested at all.

Every major grain commodity is impacted by the global trade uncertainty unfolding around the world from trade wars.

Canola and soybean shipments are being rejected by China, Italy is imposing non-tariff barriers on Canadian durum, India has increased tariffs on pulses and Saudi Arabia is refusing Canadian barley.

Prices for many commodities have been greatly affected

Farmers face the challenge of not breaking even on crop they can sell due to non-trade barriers and the China/US trade war. Add to this the higher costs of drying record amounts of wet grain, which requires propane or natural gas – both subject to the carbon tax.

The stress is impacting farmers

Mental health lines in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes are reporting increases of close to 80% compared to other years.

Grain farmers (grains, oilseeds, pulses) are family owned businesses that support their local economy. Those rural communities also feel the hurt if grain farmers are hurting. This in turn has a negative impact on the Canadian economy as a whole.

If there isn’t immediate action by the Ministers of Agriculture from across Canada at their December 17 meeting, farm failures will occur that will impact all Canadians.

In these days of regional tensions where we are all searching for unity, this is a chance for a win-win for farmers, Canadians and the Federal and Provincial governments. By recognizing the difficult conditions that we face, the government has a unique opportunity to lift up farmers – instead of dividing them.

There is no better time than now to take that step. Let’s do it together.

Jeff Nielsen,
Chair, Grain Growers of Canada