For Immediate Release
November 20, 2014
QUEEN’S PARK – An expansion of production insurance to cover more agricultural commodities is long overdue.
According to Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett, who is also the Official Opposition’s Agricultural, Food and Rural Affairs Critic, there are many questions swirling with regard to the Government’s announcement yesterday to amend the Crop Insurance Act.
Barrett questioned Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal: “Will there be a premium holiday in the first year? Other questions: Will it be easy for farmers to forecast the amount and timing of payments? Can the payments be processed rapidly to get them into the hands of farmers quickly? Will program calculations be clear and transparent? Will each participant get a detailed statement, something like, say, the income tax forms that we receive back?”
Production insurance lends a hand to farmers to deal with losses from natural events like weather, pests and disease. Production insurance costs are shared by producers, the provincial and federal governments.
Farmers have long requested production insurance plans move beyond just crops to include insurance for additional agricultural products. The agricultural sector needs production insurance, not just crop insurance. Ontario is the only province so far that does not have legislation enabling this to happen.
Barrett said he hopes the legislation will provide adequate response if and when another disastrous situation like BSE should occur.
“I think of BSE and the impact on cattle,” Barrett explained in the Ontario Legislature. “More recently, our pork industry was hard hit by the PED virus, resulting in a loss of 30 per cent of Ontario’s pork producing capacity. We know Ontario Pork has stressed the need for the province to take a look at mortality insurance. Also, will this enabling legislation help those beginning hog farmers who were frozen out of assistance back in 2007?”
Outside the Legislature Barrett further explained that farmers need “stability, predictability and bankability.” And he stressed that these measures cannot rob Peter to pay Paul, because Ontario’s agriculture sector needs added safety nets, not actions that replace something else.
The local MPP also pointed out the need to compensate beekeepers for bee mortality.
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For more information contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446, 905-765-8413 or 1-800-903-8629
Ontario Legislative Assembly Hansard
Hon. Jeff Leal: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to share with my colleagues my intention to seek approval of the proposed amendments to the Crop Insurance Act. One of the proposed amendments seeks to change the act’s name to the Agricultural Products Insurance Act. If the proposed amendments are passed, the change in the act’s name will better reflect what the act will allow in the future.
If passed, the proposed amendments would allow more types of agricultural products to be covered by production insurance. For those of my colleagues who may not be familiar with the concept, production insurance helps farmers deal with losses from natural events like weather, pests and disease. The costs of production insurance are cost-shared by producers and the provincial and federal governments.
Canada has a national suite of business risk management programs. There is a recognition that production insurance plans need to move beyond just crops to include insurance for other agricultural products. The agricultural sector needs production insurance, not just crop insurance. Ontario is the only province without the underlying authority to meet this commitment.
Amending the Crop Insurance Act would let us better meet producers’ needs and bring us in line with the other provinces. The proposed legislation would not only help producers manage risks, it would also encourage greater innovation, profitability and job creation in the agri-food sector.
In Ontario, production insurance is currently only available for crops like corn, soybeans and certain fresh vegetables. As we all know, Ontario produces a rich variety of foods that feed our citizens. If passed, expanded production insurance would give farmers who produce agricultural products other than crop and perennial plants access to the protection they need to safeguard their important investments. By allowing more types of products to be covered by production insurance, we would fulfill a commitment we made to Ontario’s farmers under their Growing Forward 2 agreement in 2013.
All businesses need the right tools to help them manage risk. An expanded production insurance program will help Ontario’s farmers continue to grow, innovate and, indeed, drive our economy.
Mr. Speaker, expanding our production insurance program would also help us responsibly manage the province’s finances. When producers suffer losses and don’t have production insurance coverage, they may come to us for direct or ad hoc assistance. We’ve seen ad hoc programs cost the province millions of dollars in a single year. An expanded production insurance program could have provided similar financial assistance but divided the cost between the federal government, provincial government and producers in a predictable and incremental way over a much longer period.
If our production insurance program is expanded, we would always know what our insurance expenses will be for the year. Even if we’re surprised by a catastrophic event that negatively impacts our farmers, our expense to address lost production won’t change, and we’ll still be able to provide our farmers with the appropriate help in a timely manner. Production insurance protects both farmers and the government from unexpected costs.
Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendment would set the stage for improved fiscal responsibility and has no immediate cost to our government. If passed, the proposed amendments would provide the authority to allow for an expansion in the number of commodities that can be covered under production insurance beyond crops and perennial plants. This would in turn level the playing field so that our producers can access the same kind of protection as every other farmer in Canada today.
Having the authority to expand the number of products eligible for production insurance would help us build a better business climate in Ontario, strengthen our province’s valuable agri-food industry and, indeed, strengthen our farm sector. Thank you very much.
Mr. Toby Barrett: I’ve got a minute and a half to respond to this amended production insurance legislation for livestock. It is important, and it’s overdue.
Any new PI program should provide incentive for producers to enrol, and I have a question: Will there be a premium holiday in the first year? Other questions: Will it be easy for farmers to forecast the amount and timing of payments? Can the payments be processed rapidly to get them into the hands of farmers quickly? Will program calculations be clear and transparent? Will each participant get a detailed statement, something like, say, the income tax forms that we receive back?
We wonder, will the program provide adequate response if there is—heaven forbid—another disastrous situation? I think of BSE and the impact on cattle. More recently, our pork industry was hard hit by the PED virus, resulting in a loss of 30% of Ontario’s pork producing capacity. We know Ontario Pork has stressed the need for the province to take a look at mortality insurance. Also, will this enabling legislation help those beginning hog farmers who were frozen out of assistance back in 2007?