Keystone Agricultural Producers is giving the provincial budget a thumbs up from the agriculture sector.
Producers can expect few changes to how agricultural policy is funded in Manitoba, following the release last week.
The province’s general farm organization said the budget is good for agriculture, with no cuts and some improvements on offer.
“It does not chip away at the agriculture industry’s foundation,” said Dan Mazier, president of Keystone Agricultural Producers. “And in fact, the new livestock initiative, the additional resources for weather and data forecasting, and the investment in the Manitoba Grain Innovation Hub are all designed to help agriculture grow.”
Provincial Finance Minister Cameron Friesen laid out a 2017-18 budget with an overall $840-million deficit, based on a four per cent increase in revenues at $16.1 billion and a 3.1 per cent increase in expenditures at $17.06 billion compared to its 2016-17 budget. Increased funding for innovation in agriculture included in the budget will be offset in part by an immediate end for several of the less popular tax credits available for farm use.
“Some of our provincial neighbours are pursuing different paths involving stark decisions, choosing either higher taxes or pursuing increased spending,” Friesen said in a release, adding that his government’s budget “avoids such drastic measures.”
The province’s odour control tax credit, the riparian tax credit and the nutrient management tax credit effectively ended last Tuesday for farmers and agribusiness.
Overall, the province’s 2017-18 operating budget for agriculture is pegged at $191.51 million, a 1.7 per cent increase from the 2016-17 budget, mainly on a 2.9 per cent increase in “risk management, credit and income support” funding.
Manitoba Beef Producers noted it was pleased to see plans to grow the provincial beef herd in the budget.
“It’s encouraging to see the government is committed to growth in the province’s livestock sector,” said the organization’s president Ben Fox. “Since (Agriculture) Minister (Ralph) Eichler’s comments about growing the provincial beef herd, MBP has been hard at work gathering the thoughts of our members on how best to achieve that goal… we now look forward to working with the government as part of this new strategy.”
However, there was some disappointment that this year’s budget didn’t fully address the issue of education tax reform.
“We are pleased the government has put an additional $5 million into the farmland school tax rebate because that will offset increased land values. However, because of these high land values, more farmers will be reaching the program’s $5,000 cap,” said Mazier. “We continue to call not just for a removal of the cap, but for a complete overhaul of the way education tax is funded in the province, so a disproportionate amount of school taxes does not continue to fall on farmers.”
Keystone Agricultural Producers would also liked to have seen an indication of how the province intends to introduce carbon pricing.
“KAP is calling for the necessary measures to keep farmers competitive, and I sincerely hope the province will address this as it works on the plan. As well, I urge the government to do more consulting with Manitobans, and in particular, Manitoba farmers,” Mazier said.