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Young Farmer Issues Divide MPs

MPs on the Commons agriculture committee all favour encouraging young farmers but can’t agree on how government can best help them.

The committee agreed on 13 recommendations to assist young farmers, but the Conservatives, Liberals and Bloc Quebecois decided to chip in dissenting reports with a bunch of extra ideas wrapped in political rhetoric.

By and large, the main recommendations touch on issues that most farmers are familiar with, such as better business risk management programs, more basic research, Product of Canada labelling, a level playing field for Canadian products with food imports, and more competition in the agri-food supply chain. The MPs supported these proposals along with improved credit and startup loan provisions for young farmers.

Then the parties went their own ways.

The Conservatives mostly talked about what the Harper government has already done through Farm Credit Canada to encourage young farmers and praised the National Future Farmers Forum established by Jean-Pierre Blackburn, the minister of state for agriculture.

They recommended the government keep negotiating new trade deals to expand access for Canadian food products, allow western farmers to market their own wheat and barley if they wish, and continue to defend supply management. The government

should assist young farmers “to enter the industry and remain profitable,” they said.

“Young farmers can count on the government to make every effort to ensure their livelihood,” said the Conservative report.

The Liberals agreed prosperity is the key to attracting young farmers, but said while current government policies provide for a positive future for some, the rest are offered a future that ranges from “uncertain to disastrous.”

Sustainable prosperity is the best building block and “will serve as a positive incentive to attract a future generation of farmers,” said the Liberal report.

“In many respects, unless there is a future which is attractive to a younger generation of farmers, government programming and access to credit will only mean the next generation will begin where the current generation, to a great extent, is leaving off – opportunities contingent upon the cycle of

increased debt offset minimally by ever-changing and inconsistent government safety net programs.

“This hardly is a prospect which is appealing to anyone. … To make matters worse, support for Canadian farmers is dismal when compared to the support to the agriculture sector provided by our major competition in the United States.”

Young farmers need a lot more training in business management practices and skills so they can handle financial matters as well as the impact of environmental plans, food safety systems, and innovation, the Liberals recommended.

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“SupportforCanadianfarmersisdismalwhencomparedtothesupporttotheagriculturesectorprovidedbyourmajorcompetitionintheUnitedStates.”

– LIBERAL PARTY

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