Quebec’s ag financing agency plans to further soften its planned changes for its ASRA income stabilization program, by lowering farmers’ premiums and allowing hog farmers an extra break on ASRA’s revised average costs of production.
La Financiere agricole de Quebec (FADQ) has been under fire since last year for its planned changes to ASRA — specifically for how it will gauge farms’ costs of production.
FADQ last year announced plans for revised cost-of-production models to be based on an average from the top 75 per cent of the province’s farms in terms of performance, rather than on the average of all Quebec farms.
Faced with farmer opposition, the province last fall set up a five-year, $100 million transition fund for farms to adjust to an expected overall three per cent cut in their ASRA-insured income.
Starting in April this year, FADQ said Thursday, it commissioned an actuarial revaluation of ASRA, based on which it will now revise the rates for premiums farmers pay to participate in the program for the 2011-12 production year.
These adjustments will translate to a total of $40 million in reduced premiums, FADQ said Thursday.
Hog farms, meanwhile, will get an additional break on the “measures of efficiency” that would otherwise base their average costs of production on the top 75 per cent of farms by performance.
Those measures, FADQ said, will be applied to hog farms in a “progressive” manner, allowing them to obtain an extra $9 million in total compensation over the 2011 and 2012 program years.
The changes to average cost of production will be phased in for hog farms with 50 per cent of the difference applicable in the 2011 program year, and 75 per cent in 2012.
Of the $9 million in added income support, small- and medium-sized hog operations will share $6 million, FADQ said, while larger-scale operations will see $3 million.
Provincial Agriculture Minister Pierre Corbeil on Thursday also announced a revision to the $35 million interest relief program on loans to farms facing financial difficulty while in mid-restructuring.
The interest relief program, part of the five-year, $100 million ASRA transition fund pledged last fall, will now provide interest relief on a maximum of $150,000 of loaned capital, up from the previous cap of $100,000.
The interest relief program, which runs through to the end of March 2015, is meant to allow farmers the leverage to restructure their operations and to make the investments needed to improve their productivity, Corbeil said Thursday.
Parti Quebecois agriculture critic Andre Simard ripped the proposed changes in a separate release Friday, saying they won’t make much of a difference for producers facing retirement with nothing to show for a lifetime’s work.
“It’s too little too late for hundreds of farmers who, because of this crisis, are forced to take drastic measures and, in certain cases, leave the key in the door on their farm,” he said.