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Canada’s Alberta potato growers ‘unlikely to benefit’ from govt COVID-19 funding

Recent funding announcements from the provincial and federal governments will do very little to help local potato farmers, says Potato Growers of Alberta executive director Terence Hochstein. Randy Jensen of the Lethbridge Herald reports.

The province’s announcement on Thursday it would be increasing AgriStability payouts to help potato growers will not benefit the vast majority of producers, says Hochstein, because most are not eligible for AgriStabilty in any event, especially those who farm on irrigated acres and produce crops other than potatoes.

“For the majority of the growers in the province that will have no benefit,” he confirms. “Under the current AgriStability program most growers will not qualify for various reasons. My initial reaction on that is I don’t see any financial benefit for the growers as the program is right now. As it stands right now there is no possible way for them to gain any benefit from that.”

Hochstein says in order to benefit from the AgriStability program the province would have to change the definition of eligible expenses, but barring that the program will only benefit some dryland farmers and those who grow potatoes as their sole crop -which hardly any potato producers do, says Hochstein.

The federal government’s $50-million surplus food buyout fund has the potential to be of greater assistance than the provincial program for potato growers, says Hochstein, but not as it is structured.

“The devil is going to be in the details on that, and I have yet to see the details,” he says. “The federal government had hoped it could put that money into the food banks to purchase product. But the food banks are full. There is a lack of communication here right now. The federal government announced this program, but they never thought it through.

Any program to address this problem must be targeted at finding new markets for those potatoes to go to, says Hochstein, and must pay the cost to transport and process the surplus potatoes, otherwise there will be no choice but for farmers but to destroy and dispose of a large portion of these unmovable potatoes before the next harvest in September.

Read the full report by Randy Jensen in the Lethbridge Herald here.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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