by BETTER FARMING STAFF
Canadian provincial, territorial and federal agriculture ministers have set September as the deadline to sign on to a new agricultural policy framework scheduled to take effect April 2013.
But federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz has quashed any lingering hopes that the new framework would contain federal support for Ontario’s industry developed risk management program.
Speaking to media Friday following the ministers’ meeting in Gatineau Quebec, Ritz explained that Canada’s neighbours to the south have warned the country could face trade challenges because of the program. The program uses provincial and producer contributions to provide protection from market downturns. It applies to several livestock commodities as well as to grains and oilseeds and horticulture.
The National Pork Producers Council recently used the provincial program to exemplify what it described as Canadian “trade-distorting federal and provincial programs” in an open letter to members of the U.S. Congress. The March 26 letter cites research that suggests the program would increase Ontario hog production by 600,000 pigs, which in turn would displace production elsewhere in Canada and North America, “likely reducing U.S. pork exports.”
The provincial government introduced the program last year with the goal of obtaining federal buy-in. However, in March, Ted McMeekin, the province’s agriculture minister, said they had abandoned that goal and planned to rework the program. Changes would take effect in the next fiscal year. The program remains the same for this fiscal year (2012-2013).
Ritz noted the new national policy framework will place greater emphasis on science, research and innovation. Speaking in the context of past support programs, he observed farmers should look to the "marketplace" rather than the "mailbox." Farmers currently enjoy good production levels and cost returns, he said. He later noted an approach to the policy's business risk programming had not been finalized.
“Just as farmers constantly adjust their farm practices to suit changing market or weather conditions, so too must governments review and adapt programs so they continue to support the evolving needs of the industry,” he said.
Securing access to international markets also continues to be a priority. At the same time, the government remains “steadfast” in maintaining its supply-managed industries, he said.
The ministers meet again September 12 to 14 in Whitehorse, Yukon. BF