The federal government’s $100-million-per-year program to help farmers cope with high costs of production (COP) seems to have been cancelled without paying out to farmers at all, Liberal Agriculture Critic Wayne Easter says.
“The Conservative government promised a program, created it, and for no apparent reason that makes sense, cancelled it,” Easter said in a release March 10.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper in March 2007 pledged $400 million in funding that year “to help address high production costs over the last four years,” plus $100 million per year “to address cost-of-production issues when they occur.”
Now, Easter said in an interview March 11, the COP program’s $100 million per year is nowhere to be found in the government’s budget estimates, and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s recent appearance before the Commons agriculture committee suggests the money has been redirected elsewhere.
“As a government, we are not afraid to work with farmers to redirect money that is not hitting the target. One example, of course, is the cost-of-production program,” Ritz said while addressing the committee Feb. 10.
The COP program, Ritz said, “simply did not trigger effectively or efficiently. With the new Growing Forward sweep, cost to production is factored into a wide range of farm support programs.”
As far as the federal COP funding is concerned, “we do not believe any of this money was ever paid out,” Easter said.
“While this program was far from adequate it was a step in the right direction,” he said. “The question is, why, after announcing the program a little over a year ago, did Prime Minister Harper and Agriculture Minister Ritz suddenly cancel it?”