Too many government farm regulations waste time and do nothing to improve health and safety of consumers, says a report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Farmers in Canada are hardest hit by regulations, an alphabet soup of rules including land-use restrictions, product labelling, food safety, border inspection, pesticides and data collection, said Virginia Labbie, CFIB’s senior policy analyst for agribusiness.
The CFIB study found that “72 per cent of farmers want all levels of government to place a higher priority on cutting red tape, more than on any other measure, to help them compete and remain in business,” she said. Tax relief came in next at 68 per cent.
“With governments in the midst of finalizing a plan to support the future of agriculture in Canada, taking immediate action to reduce the regulatory burden will allow farmers to continue to provide consumers with high-quality, homegrown food,” said Labbie.
Farm groups endorsed the call for fewer regulations.
Farmers “face a myriad of regulations each day and any effort to streamline or reduce redundancy will help their bottom line,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.
The process for developing regulations needs to include a “realistic assessment of what the regulations are supposed to accomplish,” he said, adding that too often regulations follow a token consultation with farmers.
Then there’s the irksome requirement to keep supplying government with information and data that’s already been submitted, he noted.
Farm groups have to collaborate on “developing an inventory of unnecessary and redundant regulations to present to the government,” said Bob Friesen, president of FNA-STAG.
There’s plenty of scope for reduction in pesticide and fertilizer regulations, he added. And then there are issues like efficacy testing that should be left to the market.
“If a product doesn’t work, farmers won’t buy it,” he said.
Governments should focus on the safety of the end product and not the process that produces it, said Richard Phillips, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada.
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said the government has adopted the proposal from the Red Tape Reduction Commission to require “the removal of at least one regulation each time a new one is introduced that imposes administrative burden on business.”
His department, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Grain Commission are working to streamline regulations, he said, pointing to “a more flexible seed variety registration” as an example.
Canada is working with the U.S. through the Regulatory Co-operation Council to make the pesticide registration process more efficient and timely, he added.
CFIB would like the auditor general to report annually on the state of government regulation.
“We need to make a review of regulations a permanent feature on the political menu,” said Labbie.