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Agriculture minister in Vernon to announce extension of government farm insurance program

Government extends farm insurance program
Watch: Federal Agriculture Minister in Vernon to extend extra support to farmers.

There is some extra government assistance coming to B.C. farmers who struggled financially last year.

The federal agriculture minister was in the Vernon area on Monday announcing an extension to a government farm insurance program.

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It’s no secret that farmers can face unexpected setbacks to their bottom lines, and last year, it came from B.C.’s record-breaking fire season.

John Anderson, vice-president of the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, said some ranchers lost infrastructure, such as buildings and fences, as grasslands burned. In some cases, ranchers lost cattle, he added.

However, there is help available.

A joint federal and provincial insurance program called AgriStability helps to compensate farmers if they face large financial losses.

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On Monday, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau visited the Vernon area to announce an extension to the program that would allow late registration for 2018 compensation.

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“The majority of people are on it on a consistent basis, and there is a fee to belong to it so you pay some money into it, and then when there is a disaster, that is recompensated, along with the top-up from the provincial and federal governments,” explained Anderson.

Bibeau explained to the group of reporters gathered at a north Okanagan farm that it means “producers can have access to the AgriStability funds whether the originally registered or not.”

The late-participation option announced Monday means farmers who struggled in 2018 but aren’t already part of the insurance program can still receive government aid for financial hits suffered last year.

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“We understand how hard it has been with these changes in the weather and fluctuation of prices for certain commodities,” Bibeau said.

However, those who register late will be entitled to only 80 per cent of the compensation.

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“So [there] is still an incentive for all farmers to register soon,” said Bibeau.

“At the same time, we didn’t want to leave all those farmers left behind.”

For some ranchers, it is expected to make a big difference.

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“I think, in some cases, it will be the difference between whether some people stay in business or don’t stay in business, particularly [with] some of the big fires we had in the northern part of the province, where agriculture is a very big part of some of the smaller communities,” Anderson said.

Farmers and ranchers will have until the end of June to complete late applications for last year.