The province of Manitoba is asking farmers and farm organizations for input into Growing Forward II, which is currently being negotiated with the federal government.
“The more input Manitoba industry stakeholders provide through the consultations, the more influence they will have on the future content and direction of the next generation of Growing Forward programs,” Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives Minister Ron Kostyshyn said in a news release.
He went on to indicate new Growing Forward policies will build on successes of the last five years, but added that agricultural ministers from across the country believe the new program should focus on four main industry priorities, including domestic and international competitiveness, innovation, sustainability and resource infrastructure.
Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute’s (PAMI) agricultural projects manager Lorne Grieger said Growing Forward has been instrumental in many of the research projects at the institution, particularly with projects focused on biofuels, biomass and the densification of agricultural residue.
“It’s something that is very important to the work we do here,” he said, adding PAMI has been active in providing input to government.
“We want to continue to provide what farmers are looking for,” said Grieger.
However, recent cuts to the federal budget and a dour economic outlook have left Grieger with concerns about how much funding new programs will receive. He is not alone in wondering if there will be cuts.
“That is very much a risk, government has already curtailed program spending within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in this spring’s budget,” said Keystone Agricultural Producers (KAP) president Doug Chorney. “When you see things like the Cereal Research Centre being shuttered and shut down at the University of Manitoba, it worries me that we might be losing our vision for the future.”
Business risk management programs, such as crop insurance and AgriStability, make up 90 per cent of what Growing Forward funds, Chorney said. The remaining 10 per cent goes towards research.
However, following years where little is paid out through business risk management programs, Chorney suggests putting additional funding into research programs.
But as the province with the highest uptake on crop insurance — 86 per cent of Manitoba farmers opt into the program — maintaining and improving risk management is key, Chorney said.
“The bottom line is, we feel that at the very least Growing Forward should continue to address all of the business risk management challenges that we have in agriculture,” he said, adding increased investment in research is also important.
The KAP representative noted that one in eight jobs in Canada is tied to agriculture and the agri-foods sector, even if the number of farmers is small.
That makes it even more important for producers to get out and participate in the province’s call for input on Growing Forward II, he said.
Kostyshyn said that for this consultation process, the province is using a web-based format rather than public meetings, adding this process is intended to build on in-person industry consultations that have occurred over the past two years.
To take part in the online consultation, go to www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/growingforward/about/gf2_questions.html.