© Copyright AgMedia Inc
by TREENA HEIN
The newly released federal budget has addressed some agriculture industry issues while leaving many other concerns untouched.
A $500 million fund to help ‘modernize’ farms is included, which Ontario Federation of Agriculture Vice President Don McCabe says is the government’s only nod to “what was proposed under Agriflex.”
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture proposed Agriflex, a combination of business risk management (BRM) and non BRM programs funded by federal and provincial governments to “replace the patchwork of ad hoc programs we’ve had in the past,” says McCabe. “It represents more predictable and stable funding for farmers.”
McCabe says the $500 million fund includes only $190 million of new money, and the remaining $310 million is redirected funding from the AgCanada budget. “We don’t know where that’s coming from yet and that’s a concern. We require clarification on that.”
The federal budget also provides $50 million for slaughterhouse expansion. While OFA welcomes the cash, McCabe says “we have to be very cognizant of what’s happened in the past.”
“Some folks have established processing facilities, only to find the regulatory changes were so cost-burdensome that it required a downsizing or even cessation of operations … We can’t continue to absorb these changes when our competitors don’t have to deal with the same standards – yet their products are in our grocery stores.”
McCabe is pleased that the budget promises to amend the Farm Cooperatives Act. “This will bring new opportunities on board and we want to make sure we’re part of the consultation for that.”
The OFA also wants input into how the $1 billion Southern Ontario Development Fund is spent. “We are the second largest industry and the third largest employer in southern Ontario,” says McCabe, noting the fund needs to be broad enough to recognize all the contributions agriculture can make.
Ontario Cattlemen’s Association (OCA) spokesperson Lianne Appleby is not satisfied with how the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s and OCA’s concerns have been largely ignored.
During the budget consultation period, the CCA requested funding and direction for Health Canada’s Veterinary Drugs Directorate to improve regulatory processes. The CCA also asked for an extension of the emergency measures of the Agriculture Marketing Programs Act’s Advance Payments Program for livestock and the federal government announced an extension earlier this month.
Other items on the CCA wish list included programming “to help producers deal with regulatory costs and to recognize and further encourage the [environmental] stewardship they provide” and “an investment to increase research into feed grain yields and for forages and grazing.”
“Although we haven’t seen implementation detail regarding the 2009 budget, I believe it holds no considerable benefits that will affect our farmers, and that’s disappointing,” Appleby says.
Alex Atamanenko, the NDP’s agriculture critic, says the allocations aren’t enough to address chronic problems associated with farm income and called them “token” gestures.
Atamanenko says there does not seem to be any indication that the income crisis facing cattle producers has been meaningfully addressed.
He also criticizes the budget for not including initiatives to position farmers in the marketplace or support small and organic producers. He notes there’s no renewed commitment to Farmers Market Canada.
Other budget items that may affect farmers include a $1-billion Community Adjustment Fund to retrain workers in hard-hit industries and infrastructure funding. BF
2009 Federal Budget