Sask. agriculture minister calling on Ottawa to speed up canola assistance

Saskatchewan’s agriculture minister is calling on his federal counterpart to implement previously announced supports for canola farmers.

On May 1, Ottawa announced the ceiling for their Advance Payment Program (APP) would be raised to $1 million from $400,000. The first $500,000 in these loans would be interest free, while Canada looks for new canola markets.

Canadian canola shipments continue to be blocked at Chinese ports due to disputed reports of pests.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister David Marit said they proposed the idea to increase the APP ceiling in March.

“Seeding is well in full swing, well over 70 per cent of the crop is in the ground and farmers have bills to pay,” Marit said.

“So this was a proposal we put forward, it was a short-term solution that could really assist the farmers. We’re really disappointed that this is being delayed even further.”

Marit said he’s heard from farmers that have applied for the expanded APP, but were told the program may not be in place until July. There is also concern payments may not be retroactive to the May 1 announcement date.

Regina Wascana MP and Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said the APP expansion is a priority, but there are administrative hurdles to get over.

“It is not administered directly by the Government of Canada. It is administered by a third party, so they need the time to ramp up their systems,” Goodale said.

“Working in cooperation with them, the Government of Canada provides the financial backstop but the administrative side is handled by a third-party administrator. They’re all putting their shoulders to the wheel to get this done and out and in the hands of farmers as rapidly as possible.”

In a statement, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said they continue work with the administrative patterns and “will have more to say soon.”

She added the Government of Canada Working Group on Canola meets weekly with stakeholders to address current market challenges.

Back in Saskatchewan, Marit said farmers are stuck waiting in one of their most expensive times of the year.

“There’s a lot of canola sitting in the bins where guys probably did have contract calls on it, but they just weren’t getting it delivered,” he said.

“So now you have a cash flow problem, so now it’s compounding everything and that’s why we felt it was very important to give us the interest free and raise the limit so farmers could at least access some money.”


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