Commentary: Mixed news for Ontario agriculture in new federal investment program
By Keith Currie President Ontario Federation of Agriculture
At the annual Federal/Provincial Agriculture Minister’s talks (FPT) in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada’s agriculture ministers reached an agreement on a new five-year investment for the agri-food industry with the recent announcement of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). The program officially begins on April 1, 2018 and involves a $3 billion investment to strengthen the agri-food sector in Canada.
A key component of the new partnership – that picks up where the last agricultural policy framework Growing Forward 2 wraps up – is a continuation of Business Risk Management (BRM) programs. It is great news for Ontario agriculture that there was consensus among provincial ag ministers on the need for a comprehensive review of the suite of BRM programs. For several months OFA, along with industry partners, have advocated for a review and we’re very pleased to see that this is going to happen as part of the CAP announcement. We commend Minister Leal for his hard work to gain support and agreement with his provincial colleagues to make this happen.
While the review of BRM programming is applauded, another part of the CAP announcement is not good news for farmers. OFA shares the disappointment of other groups, including the Grain Farmers of Ontario, at the unilateral decision by Lawrence MacAuley, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food that a cutback will be made to the annual contribution limit of the AgriInvest program – a key component of the BRM programs. Announcing this change prior to doing the BRM review serves to be counter-productive to the previous announcement. Farming today can be a very unpredictable occupation. As such, farmers need an effective support system that can serve the needs of Canadian farmers’ ability to manage risk, beyond disaster relief funding. We await more details on how much this dollar-matching investment program will be impacted and will be working with Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) and industry partners to remind the federal government that collaborative decisions, not unilateral ones, will serve the best interest of the industry as a whole.
OFA will continue to work closely with Minister Leal and staff, along with industry partners, to ensure the needs of our members are heard and met through the BRM review.
More details on the new Canadian Agricultural Partnership are posted at ofa.on.ca.