Federal funding cuts to farm programs feared

September 21, 2012
Written by By Mark Wales, president, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Sept. 21, 2012, Guelph, Ont. — Canada’s federal government has sent a clear signal to farmers across the country: our government is not prepared to shoulder much of the responsibility or risks involved with feeding Canadian food to Canadians.

Ottawa’s recent announcement of the five-year Growing Forward 2 policy framework for agriculture, agri-food and agri-products has cut funding from the precise areas where Canadian farmers need it most: in cost-shared programs intended to provide a modicum of income stability in these highly uncertain economic times.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) – and our provincial and federal counterparts from across the country – have stated the importance of Business Risk Management programs to Canadian farm families at every available consultation opportunity.

Canadian farm organizations have presented a unified message that Canada’s AgriStability program – which helps regulate farm income levels in large margin declines – is in dire need of enhancements, not cuts. With the proposed changes to AgriStability, the already troubled program will be even less effective because many farmers will see little value in enrolling at all.

The changes are designed to limit the government’s expenditure exposure. OFA’s calculations suggest the cuts will provide a net savings to government of approximately $350 million per year.

Likewise, Canada’s AgriInvest program - which matches farmer investments with government dollars to manage small margin declines  - has also been cut by about $100 million. Together, the changes to the two programs will save government at least $450 million per year.

What’s good in all this? The OFA would like to thank the Ontario Minister of Agriculture Ted McMeekin for being forthright and honest about the worst-case scenario that was to come and his efforts in working with other provincial agriculture ministers to reduce the severity of these cuts. We appreciate his candour and efforts to keep the OFA informed about the meetings taking place at the federal, provincial and territorial table. For Ontario farmers, there is little else to be positive about.

In the coming weeks, Canadians can expect the federal government will put the best possible face on its butchered agricultural policy. We can expect to hear a lot about the government’s investment in driving innovation in Canada’s agri-food sector.

But OFA sees nothing innovative about the government shirking its shared responsibility in feeding Canadians. And there is nothing to celebrate about leaving Canadian farmers to shoulder the significant financial ramifications of primary agriculture in such an unpredictable world economy.

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