Canada’s ag minister hopes to put the finishing touches on the next ag policy framework in September
Federal and provincial agriculture ministers met last week in Gatineau, Quebec to discuss a new agricultural policy framework, but didn’t provide much insight into what it would look like when it takes effect next April 1.
Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz told reporters that the ministers agreed the new framework will focus on investments in innovation, competitiveness, market opportunities, adaptability and sustainability. They hope to sign the agreement at their next annual meeting in September.
“We continue to work with our partners, both industry and the provinces and territories to make sure that we continue to deliver on marketplace not the mailbox,” Ritz said when asked if farm income support programs will be as prominent under the new agreement.
“We are looking at more science and research and we are looking at more innovation and more flexibility for the provinces to deliver to their industries within their borders.”
Thanks to good markets farmers are relying less on government support programs currently, Ritz added.
“What we’re looking at is the longer term so they have the capabilities to be innovative, to be able to work with new sound scientific programs that give them even better results.
“It’s a good opportunity to assess what is working, what isn’t working, to make sure farmers are able to innovate and move forward.”
Livestock insurance, modelled after crop insurance, doesn’t appear imminent.
“Ultimately, I think that’s where we should be,” Ritz said.
A pilot project in Alberta has demonstrated the idea has merit, but farmers are reluctant to leave AgriStability, which provides livestock producers with up to 85 per cent coverage of their revenues, he said.
“And of course no private sector is going to develop one (insurance program) as long as the federal government has their oar in the water so certainly it will take time to move forward from the Alberta pilot,” he said.
Ritz also said the government remains committed to legislation compelling the railways to provide shippers with level-of-service agreements.
“They (railways) claim they don’t need separate legislation because they have shown they can do better,” Ritz said. “My response to them is ‘that’s great, then we’ll never have to use that tool in the tool kit,’ but I assured them that it will be there.
“We’d prefer to see the legislation sooner rather than later so farmers have that idea of what’s coming.”
Ottawa’s conciliator Jim Dinning has been trying to find common ground between shippers and the railways. But at his final meeting April 16 the railways failed to agree to provide shippers with level-of-service agreements, said Gordon Bacon, CEO of Pulse Canada.
“Farmers across Canada were told almost a year ago that this government would entertain legislation to bring everyone in the logistics system to the table to drive efficiencies across the whole system,” Ritz said. “We certainly intend to do that through a piece of legislation.”