“It can get very expensive.”
– Ian Wishart, KAP
Manitoba farmers want a tax reward for providing consumers with safe, wholesome food.
Keystone Agricultural Producers delegates at their annual meeting passed a resolution demanding producers receive income tax credits for carrying out on-farm food safety programs.
The credits could be in the form of income tax deductions if farmers are profitable and straight tax rebates if they’re not, said Ian Wishart, KAP president.
Food safety programs provide a publ ic ser vice and governments should reimburse farmers for them, Wishart said in speaking to the resolution.
“We need some recognition and some rewards for doing this.”
Chuck Fossay, who farms at Starbuck, agreed tax credits are a “simple and clean way” of rewarding farmers for providing such services.
Later, Wishart said the time and paperwork required for such programs are an increasing burden on farmers.
One large Manitoba potato grower employs a person full time just to keep on-farm food safety records, he said.
Wishart also used to grow potatoes on his farm near Portage la Prairie. The last year he did so, it took him the equivalent of 10 days to complete two food safety record manuals: one for each of two processors to whom he delivered.
“It can get very expensive,” he said.
The expense will likely increase as governments initiate even more food safety programs. The previous day, Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuk announced $400,000 for development work on an agri-food traceability system. Some of the cost will inevitably get passed down to producers, said Wishart.
Tax credits for such services are not unknown in Manitoba. The Riparian Tax Credit program, implemented in 2007, provides property tax credits for farmers to improve management of river and stream banks and lakeshores.
Reimbursing farmers for carrying out environmental goods and services is the purpose of Alternate Land Use Services (ALUS), a KAP-initiated program and Wishart’s brainchild. An ALUS pilot project is underway in the western Manitoba municipality of Blanshard.
Wishart said governments are starting to recognize the principle of paying landowners for providing public benefits.
The KAP resolution now goes to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture annual meeting in late February for further consideration. KAP will also push the province to consider the measure, he said.
“I’m sure it will be taken seriously.”