Modest changes in government policy could reap major benefits for farmers, the Grain Growers of Canada says in a pre-budget consultation paper for the Commons Finance Committee.
Making agriculture research a key priority and rewarding producers for good environmental farm practices are among the suggestions GGC has for the committee, which holds hearings this fall on the 2012 budget.
“The government needs to hear what real farmers want to see in the next budget,” GGC president Stephen Vandervalk said in a statement. “Tax incentives for practical items like lower-emission engines and updated GPS systems to reduce inputs are not only good for farmers, they are also good for the general public that cares about the environment.”
The best way to encourage agriculture research is to allow “successful programs to retain the revenue generated to encourage even more success,” he added. More public-private research partnerships are needed.
RAIL SERVICE REVIEW
The farm group also wants government action on the recommendations of the Rail Freight Service Review for balancing the market powers of the carriers and their customers, he noted.
Agriculture research needs a long-term vision, the GGC presentation says. “Food and agriculture research must remain a strategic target area of research for the federal government. Recent issues like food prices, food safety, biofuels and sustainability have created public interest in agriculture.”
Currently core agricultural research funding “is lower today than it was in 1994. It would take an annual increase of $26 million a year for each of the next 10 years to get us back to the 1994 inflation- adjusted level.”
Agriculture Canada and other departments “should be encouraged to look at partnerships for commercialization as the expertise required for a successful product launch exists primarily within the private sector,” GGC said.
The government should strengthen the ability of farm groups to apply and collect checkoffs so all farmers contribute equally to research, it said.
It’s important to keep Agriculture Canada in core research the private sector doesn’t conduct. “One small example is in the field of nanotechnology on fertilizer where work is being done to create smart fertilizers that seal themselves when there is too much water, thus preventing leaching into water systems and reducing the amount of product even needed on the fields.”
The government should streamline its regulations to encourage agriculture innovation, GGC said. “There are consumer concerns regarding some new biotechnologies, but food production needs to increase by 50 per cent in the coming years. This will not be achieved through slashing yields to farm organically on a broad-acre basis, nor will this be accomplished by relying solely on conventional plant breeding.”
Another way to help farmers is “increasing the capital cost allowance for aeration and bin temperature monitoring systems will help ensure grain is being stored safely.”
With stepped-up testing for mycotoxins in grain, pulses and oilseeds, farmers need to be able “to increase the quality of their on-farm storage and aeration systems to help ensure their harvested grain remains in top condition and is healthy for Canadian consumers.”
Tax breaks for farmers who adopt new technologies “to help guide tractors, fertilizer applicators and sprayers with incredible precision” not only reduces the costs of inputs and fuel, it helps farmers to be good stewards of the environment by reducing application errors of fertilizers or herbicides.
“Also increasing the allowances for new tractors will help ensure that farmers are using modern engines which burn cleaner and reduce carbon emissions,” GGC said.
Farmers also need assistance with developing proper on-farm fertilizer storage. A $1-million capital gains exemption on farm transfers would be a boon to new farmers, the association said.