CFA urges government to better consider agriculture

The sector shouldn’t be ‘collateral damage’ when government direction is set

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) wants to see Ottawa doing a better job of considering farmers when making decisions.

That theme emerged from the recent annual general meeting of the group, held in Ottawa.

Chris van den Heuvel.
photo: Supplied

“There’s a lot of good, sound policy in there that we want to see and move forward. But, you know, basically at the end of the day, what we want the government to do is apply an agricultural lens to policy decision-making,” said CFA vice-president Chris van den Heuvel. “It doesn’t just have to be just when they’re making decisions about agriculture, because as we’ve seen, we’re often collateral damage, so we want them to take a look at, how does this affect agriculture and the services we provide.”

For example, despite calls from several agricultural groups to exempt grain drying from the carbon pricing system, Agricultural Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau remains unconvinced it is possible. She asked, and received, data from grain farmers and provinces starting in December on the impact of carbon pricing, but maintains it is not enough.

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“Weakening the pricing solution, I would have to say I don’t have the business case, I don’t have the case with the data I’ve got to get an exemption,” she said, adding the impact of the price on pollution specifically for grain drying is “not that significant.”

The “collateral damage” van den Heuvel spoke of was the subject of several of the more than 60 resolutions proposed at the AGM.

A resolution supporting a federally funded trade war mitigation program gained 98 per cent of delegate support, while another resolution urging the federal government to resolve the Chinese canola market access issue quickly was favoured by 99 per cent of delegates.

Several resolutions on the topic of carbon pricing and its impact on agricultural operations, such as grain drying, were also passed.

Todd Lewis, president of Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan (APAS), said he is hopeful Bibeau is still willing to listen to producers about their concerns over carbon pricing.

“We’re certainly doubling and redoubling our efforts on this file,” he said. “The good news is the door is still open. So we’re going to continue with our advocacy and the work we’re doing.”

Despite Bibeau’s reluctance to offer concessions on carbon pricing for agricultural producers, she maintains a willingness to find other ways to support the industry.

Lewis said he was impressed with the 200-some delegates in attendance at the AGM and the participation involved.

“Really the subject matter has been excellent and pretty darn timely for the way things worked out, as far as the blockades and everything that’s going on,” he said. “It’s a good time to be in Ottawa, everything that is happening and all the issues within agriculture so yes, it’s been a very good AGM.”

He said it is important to have meetings such as this to ensure commonality across the country and to ensure lobbying efforts are in line.

Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) president Bill Campbell had similar thoughts, saying, “It is very important that we bring all provinces and all sectors in the agricultural industry together for this meeting in Ottawa.

“It allows us the opportunity to meet with our representatives and representatives from other regions with regards to our issues in agriculture. So as I’ve evolved in agriculture, I realized the importance of this CFA meeting,” he said.

The AGM also offers an opportunity to meet with the policy-makers they are lobbying – most notably Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

“We have been talking to our MPs with regards to the carbon tax, business risk management, some of the good things that agriculture does with regards to carbon recycling,” said Campbell. “And, you know, the financial impact that this is having on the landscape with regards to assuring that our young producers have the ability to stay farming.”

CORRECTION, March 6, 2020 — An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified APAS president Todd Lewis as Todd McKay. We regret the error.

About the author

Reporter

D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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