Senate urges action on ag inputs
The Canadian Senate is recommending the federal government take steps to address the rising costs of farm inputs. They are calling for a new federal department of rural affairs to be created in order to implement the recommendations.
The Canadian Senate's standing
committee on agriculture recommends the federal government step in to address
the rising costs of farm inputs, and to raise rural affairs' profile in
In separate reports released Tuesday
— one on rural poverty, the other on the cost of farm inputs — the committee
respectively called for the government to create a new federal department of
rural affairs to implement many of its recommendations, and for changes to
federal farm programs to help farmers deal with rising costs for inputs such as
It's no surprise to rural residents
that Canada's rural populations are shrinking,
the Senate committee said, noting rural Canada's share of the national population
has dropped to below 20 per cent for the first time in Canada's history in the most recent
Furthermore, the committee said in a
release Tuesday, "most of the resource-based industries such as
agriculture, forestry and fishing are in decline. Young people are leaving
rural Canada for school or work in the cities
and not returning. Meanwhile, those left behind — mostly seniors — watch as
schools, churches and businesses close down around them."
The committee held two years' worth
of meetings on rural poverty across the country in developing its report,
titled Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty.
The committee said a new rural
affairs department would drive the implementation of many of its 68
recommendations, which include:
- compensation to farmers for providing
environmental stewardship services, as has already been put into practice
in the pilot Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program;
- revising the Farm Families Options Program to
"bring enhanced income stability to low-income farmers;"
- a new early learning and childhood education
program "sensitive to rural realities;" resources for
co-operative vocational schools in rural Canada; student loan and grant
funding "sensitive to rural needs;" more university and college
programs in rural Canada; and
- moving 10 per cent of the federal public service
"out of the big cities and into the regions."
Ag input prices
The Senate committee's report on
farm input prices noted fertilizer prices as among the "areas of significant
concern for the committee," reporting that some fertilizer products that
have risen in price by as much as 240 per cent in four years.
Seed costs, the committee said, have
risen by as much as 80 per cent, while diesel fuel prices in some regions are up
more than 50 per cent over the previous year.
"As a grain producer I know
that the only way a farmer can remain competitive and survive is by keeping the
input costs down," said committee deputy chair Len Gustafson, a
Conservative senator from Saskatchewan.
"Canadians farmers have to
compete in the international marketplace. If the farm sector in Canada is to
survive, then the federal government will have to play a more forceful role in
monitoring and containing farm input costs."
Among the committee's
- revising federal farm programs to help cover
- examining the level of concentration in the
fertilizer industry in Canada;
- examining current support levels for
publicly-funded research, particularly on the cost-efficient use of farm
- having the federal finance department examine
the level to which commodity traders in hedge and pension funds are
- funding for a program to help Canadian
agri-retailers upgrade their security measures and safeguard fertilizer
and pesticides from criminal misuse;
- having the federal agriculture department review
how government regulatory measures may put the agri-food industry at a
competitive disadvantage; and
- providing the agri-food industry with forums to
discuss regulatory needs of new input products, and facilitate approval
for products already sold in other countries.