July 28, 2003: Whenever farm safety net programs
change, the principle of maximums on payouts is revisited.
The Christian Farmers Federation has a long history of supporting
caps on payouts to any one person. With the transition from
the old NISA program - the old Net Income Stabilization Accounts
- to the proposed Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization
Program, we have revisited caps.
CFFO remains strongly committed to the principle of focusing
government support on small and moderate-size family farms.
The rationale is a simple issue of fairness. Some entrepreneurs
should not be given access to large amounts of public money
just because they are big producers of farm commodities. People
matter more than production.
Agreeing on a specific dollar maximum is always harder than
agreeing on the principle of caps. For the new Canadian Agricultural
Income Stabilization Program, a maximum of $150,000 has received
the most support in CFFO committees. That's considerable government
money per person, per year.
But, it is a modest cap compared to the maximums pitched
by some farm groups. There are voices promoting a million
and two million per year. Is CFFO's sense of fairness representative
of the farm community?
Back in June, at the Ontario Pork Congress, we checked to
see if our views have resonance with the broader public. We
asked visitors to our trade show booth about caps on program
payments. 197 participated in our trivia challenge. To qualify
for prizes, players needed to choose either "I agree"
or "I disagree" for the following statement: "Because
it is fundamentally unfair to give some farmers access to
more dollars from public support programs than many others,
government policy for agriculture must be focused on the moderate-sized
family farm, and have caps on payouts."
Eighty-one percent agreed that payouts should have caps.
Just seventeen percent disagreed and two percent circled both
"I agree" and "I disagree"
Participants were also challenged to give a reason for their
Many of those who disagreed with caps reasoned that fairness
should mean equal support per unit of production. Some reasoned
that large farms invest more and take more risks; therefore,
they have greater need. Some took exception to subsidies going
to those who are inefficient and emphasized: "The future
is large production units."
About thirty percent of those who supported caps identified
the family farm as the backbone of rural Ontario and want
small farms to survive. Nineteen percent were critical of
large corporations taking over farming. Seventeen percent
emphasized fairness defined as support and opportunities for
Moderate caps have broad public support. Farm groups asking
for access to millions per farmer are out of touch with the
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pressure supply management
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in food: The story we are not telling
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water for all
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ethics of biotechnology: Discussion at the stakeholders'
conference goes beyond higher yields
- MORE> Letter
from Ontario archive
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