Advocate Staff Reporter
Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and provincial ministers of agriculture emerged from two days of meetings in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on July 21 with a new agreement that will shape Canadian farming regulations.
Its name? The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). A five-year, $3-billion investment, the agreement focuses agricultural policy on what Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada calls “six key priority areas.”
"The Canadian Agricultural Partnership sets the direction for the future of the sector to help it continue to innovate, grow and prosper, and position Canada as a leader in the global economy,” said MacAulay. “Together with provinces and territories, I am committed to expanding business opportunities for our Canadian producers, ranchers and processors, and strengthening the middle class."
Quebec Minister of Agriculture Laurent Lessard voiced his approval and support for the agreement, stating that cooperation between Ottawa and the province’s ministry of agriculture is essential for developing Quebec’s agri-food businesses.
“That the budget allocated to the next strategic framework be maintained is excellent news for our industry, as well as respecting the level of flexibility that Quebec will have in setting up initiatives that meet the needs of the sector,” said Lessard. “In addition, I am pleased with the stability of the risk-management programs maintained as part of the agreement for the next five years.”
While all territories and provinces have signed the new agreement, not everybody is happy. Saskatchewan in particular says it does not support late participation in the AgriStability program. That’s the federal program that protects producers from large declines in their farming income caused by production loss, increased costs or market conditions.
The new Canadian Agricultural Partnership would allow producers to sign up for AgriStability after the deadline, with payouts being reduced by 20 per cent. Saskatchewan says that goes against the principle of support and relief programs, where participants are asked to sign up before losses occur. The Prairie province will not be allowing its producers to sign up after the deadline.
“I’m saying today that Saskatchewan will not be triggering late participation in AgriStability,” provincial Minister of Agriculture Lyle Stewart said. “It’s still (the producers’) responsibility in Saskatchewan to sign up (on time) or manage without.”
Stewart and other provincial ministers were quick to remind farmers that, while the Canadian Agricultural Partnership replaces Growing Forward 2 as Canada’s chief agriculture policy framework, there is no new money in the agreement. Funds have been shifted around as a result of the arrangement producers are used to under Growing Forward 2.
For instance, the allowable net sales eligibility under AgriInvest will be reduced from $1.5 million to $1 million, and annual government matching contributions will be limited to $10,000 rather than $15,000.
“Producers shouldn’t get their hopes too high, because there is still no new money,” Stewart said. “So, anything that’s done that costs money to help one program will have to come out of another; so I wouldn’t expect major things to change, but, hopefully, we will find some small tweaks that will be helpful.”
The meeting between Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture, which is held in a different Canadian city every summer, holds a few promises for improving the nation’s agricultural landscape over the next five years.
Ministers agreed to a review of business risk-management programs — like AgriInsurance and AgriRecovery included in Growing Forward — that Ontario and several farm organizations have been arguing for. Ontario Minster of Agriculture Jeff Leal said the review will include “meaningful engagement” with producers across the country.
Agriculture Canada says CAP will focus on six priority initiatives. Canadian farmers can expect money to be directed into these areas in the next five years.
• Science, Research, and Innovation: Helping industry adopt practices to improve resilience and productivity through research and innovation in key areas.
• Markets and Trade: Opening new markets and helping farmers and food processors improve their competitiveness through skills development and improved export capacity, underpinned by a strong and efficient regulatory system.
• Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change: Building sector capacity to mitigate agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, protect the environment and adapt to climate change by enhancing sustainable growth, while increasing production.
• Value-added Agriculture and Agri-food Processing: Supporting the continued growth of the value-added agriculture and agri-food processing sector.
• Public Trust: Building a firm foundation for public trust in the sector through improved assurance systems in food safety and plant and animal health, stronger traceability and effective regulations.
• Risk Management: Enabling proactive and effective risk-management, mitigation and adaptation to facilitate a resilient sector by working to ensure programs are comprehensive, responsive and accessible.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is set to come into effect on April 1, 2018.