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The Workers Compensation Board says the agricultural industry has among the highest fatality rates of any Canadian occupation. ((CBC))

Island farmers will soon have to provide workers' compensation coverage for all their employees.

In the past, farming employers weren't required to have coverage for their workers, but some did it voluntarily.

"As a long-time farmer, I understand the concerns and reservations that the industry might have about mandatory coverage," Stuart Affleck, chair of the Workers Compensation Board, said in a written release.

"I was pleased to be part of the panel discussions and consultation with the farming industry. It was important to meet with various boards, employers and workers and to hear their thoughts; clarify some misperceptions; and to receive valuable feedback from the farming sector on how we could help them through this transition."

PEI Federation of Agriculture president Mary Robinson said reaction to the decision has been mixed.

"The PEIFA is a full supporter of farm safety and providing a safe workplace," she said.

"We're unsure as to what this will mean for smaller producers and larger producers, the whole range of producers that chose currently to not subscribe to the program. We really don't know and I don't think WCB knows either."

 Affleck said letters will be sent out shortly explaining to farm organizations how the process will work.

He said the farmers themselves will also be covered in case of accidents of their farms.

Affleck said compensation is funded completely by employers. The current rate is $2.67 per $100 spent on wages, he said.

The board said the agricultural industry has among the highest fatality rates of any Canadian occupation.

The new rules come into effect on January 1, 2017.