LETTER FROM ONTARIO
CAIS is a good program - plan to participate

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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February 23, 2004: This month, many Ontario farmers are receiving an important package in their mailbox from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF). It will contain an application form, an inventory schedule, a deposit options notice and an estimate of their reference production margin if they participated in previous financial assistance programs such as Net Income Stabilization Accounts or the Ontario Farm Income Disaster Program.

OMAF is scrambling to roll out the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program (CAIS). It is based on a new approach to assessing the financial health of farming -- production margins, production revenue minus production expenses. Participating farmers will be providing OMAF with information about their farming activities annually: inventory and production records, accounts receivable, accounts payable and a statement of farming income or loss. If a farmer's production margin falls below the average of a specified number of previous years, the program will make up the difference.

This is a good program and I urge every farmer to participate for these reasons:

  1. It will be the financial assistance program for the next five years.
  2. It is meant for everyone - big and small, all commodities.
  3. It is based on need. If your farm income declines from past averages - defined as a decline in production margin - you will collect.
  4. Persuading governments to do ad hoc programs when calamity strikes will be much harder.
  5. You can't lose!

Here's what farmers need to do to participate:

  1. Practice thinking production margin when reviewing farm finances.
  2. Open a CAIS account with a financial institution.
  3. Decide the level of coverage. A deposit options notice will be provided.
  4. Deposit at least the minimum in a CAIS account by April 30, 2004. Those with money in a NISA Fund can roll it into the CAIS account with a telephone call.
  5. Complete the application form by April 30, 2004. Missed deadlines put you out of the program for a year!
  6. Submit a schedule of inventory, receivables & payables for 2003 by April 30, 2004.
  7. Submit a statement of farming income or loss for 2003 by June 15, 2004 for individuals or June 30, 2004 for corporations.

I repeat. This is a good program. Go to a CAIS information meeting. OMAF has scheduled dozens around the province from mid-February through March. If your important package does not arrive by the end of February call the CAIS Program at 1-877-838-5144. If you have not participated in previous financial assistance programs such as NISA or disaster relief, call now and get on the application mailing list. The CAIS Program information service is operational from 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

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For more information about CAIS visit: www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/policy/cais/index.html

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