The Hill

Those murky political promises on support programs

The OFA wants a clear answer from the politicians on federal support for Risk Management Programs. But so far it is not getting it either from the Conservatives or the Liberals


When the next federal election launches (and that may almost coincide with this
Better Farming issue landing in the mailbox), federal support for the Risk Management Program (RMP) will be a key issue in rural Ontario.

Ontario Federation of Agriculture president Bette Jean Crews seems determined to make sure it is.

Ottawa’s action plan – a ray of hope for vegetable producers?

Food processors were ecstatic at the announcement of a federal action plan to help their industry and farmers may come to see the benefits, too


After listening for the better part of two days to academics, researchers and some farm leaders talk about future challenges for farmers trying to feed a ballooning world population, farmer Eric Allaer wanted his say.

He had listened as speaker after speaker at a January conference organized by food research networks argued for more research funding, better trade rules, the embrace of biotechnology, regulatory reform and a reversal of declining agricultural productivity.

The days of supply management seem numbered

There are signs that the political consensus supporting this long-standing arrangement is about to collapse, among them the defection of a leading Quebec spokesman


Pascal Lamy, the director general of the World Trade Organization (WTO), insists that 2011 is the year when trade negotiators must fish or cut bait.

If they want an end to the Doha Round of WTO talks, launched more than nine years ago, then this is the year to turn off the answering machines and begin making serious bargaining concessions at Geneva negotiations, he told negotiators late last year.

Tories close the door on federal co-funding for provincial risk management programs

Lack of provincial allies has helped extinguish any hope that Ontario can persuade Ottawa to share the cost of provincially designed farm support programs


The end of any hope that the federal Conservative government will succumb to Ontario’s arguments that Ottawa should co-fund the Risk Management Program came in November at a Parliament Hill meeting.

Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz was there and Ontario Conservative MP Larry Miller, chair of the House of Commons agriculture committee, gave him the platform to deliver the verdict.

Needed: a debate about what and who really is a farmer

Without a clear definition of farmer and a clear target for farm policies, support programs will continue to be aimed at a fictitious average rather than farmers trying to make a living from the land


In 1988, Federal Court judge Barry Strayer ruled that Simmental cattle producer Peter Connell of Oxford Station, ON, was not really a full time farmer.

It meant that he could not write off all farm losses from his cattle operation near Ottawa against his off-farm income. And it was a court decision that led the finance department to change the rule about who was a real farmer eligible to write off losses.

Prince Edward County’s recipe for success

Like the microclimate that bred a flourishing wine industry on the northern shore of Lake Ontario, the county has devised a micro-community development model that has local agriculture very much at the core


When several hundred exhausted, thirsty runners reach the end of the Prince Edward County marathon in early October, a glass of beer will be waiting courtesy of the local Barley Days Brewery.

On one level, it can be seen as a promotional gesture, highlighting the rich dark beer made by a microbrewery that takes its name from the county’s heyday when a late-19th Century economic boom was based on malt barley exports.

The Hill - The vindication of Lyle Vanclief

His departure as federal ag minister was largely unlamented. But, six years later, he is being credited for the ‘historic changes’ he brought to the Canadian agriculture and food industry


A little more than six years ago, on these pages, I wrote about the unceremonious and largely unlamented departure of former federal agriculture minister Lyle Vanclief from federal politics.

It was a column that angered some close to Vanclief.

It was a column that reflected not a personal opinion but the realities of the political stew he was leaving.

The Hill: The travails of the Ontario farm economy

With Ontario farm families surviving mainly on off-farm income, farmers are in a cranky mood, but the view from Ottawa is that lack of provincial support is to blame


By the numbers, the Ontario farm economy is one sick puppy.

Farm income projections prepared by Ottawa and approved by the provincial government predict that, this year, average net operating farm income will be just $22,484 per farm, one of the lowest levels in the country. That is down 40 per cent from 2008 levels.

On a provincial level and taking depreciation charges into account, realized net farm income in Canada’s largest agricultural economy is projected to be a negative $457 million this year.

The Hill: When praise becomes part of the Tory propaganda machine

Farm leaders are becoming ruefully aware that offering public praise for a government program can also create a credibility problem


It is a sensible axiom of political lobbying that the job involves more than demanding government action and then complaining if you got just half a loaf. It is also about praising governments when they actually get it right, or even partially right. It helps create a sense with government folks that, if they spend some political capital on your behalf, the effort will be acknowledged.

Farm groups and leaders who are consistently negative or critical are quickly shut out of having any influence.