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Agriculture Noted In Harper Economic Plan

While there was no new farm spending in it, it was remarkable how many links to agriculture the government could find in its various programs.

Amixed sack of measures affecting farmers was included in Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s second progress report on his government’s economic stimulus plan.

While there was no new farm spending in it, it was remarkable how many links to agriculture the government could find in its various programs.

In addition to the previously announced $500 million AgriFlexibility program and $50 million slaughterhouse expansion initiative, they ranged from Aboriginal Skills and Training Strategic Investment Fund, which could offer trained workers in the future, to a plan to improve the availability of empty shipping containers for exports and investments in regional development agencies. In total there’re about 25 programs that could benefit farmers, the plan says.

Facing opposition threats of a general election, the government has been trumpeting its stimulus plan at every possible opportunity. For example, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz issued a press release about the slaughterhouse assistance plan. What was noteable about it was that it came on Sunday, June 13, usually a day of rest for the government information machine.

Harper’s plan says, “The government continues to make progress on the four new measures targeted to Canada’s farm businesses outlined in the Economic Action Plan.” The other ones are modernizing federal labs and improving farmer access to credit. The problem for the government is that the spending is in the future and it needs tangible proof of jobs created.

“Discussions on possible initiatives (under AgriFleixibility) have begun with the provinces and industry,” the plan says. “Program details will be announced early this summer. Initiatives will be implemented both by the federal government alone as well as in partnership with provinces and industry. Implementation will commence over the summer months.”

Under the slaughterhouse plan, the government will decide on proposals from industry during the summer. Again, a delay in getting folks working.

While the government is under pressure to get its billion of dollars stimulus spending into action, it also wants to avoid a repeat of the sponsorship scandal created by the Chrétien government in its rush to blunt a sovereignty referendum in Quebec.

One progress the government has made is getting Farm Improvement and Marketing Co-operatives Loans Act to expand farmer access to credit and support intergenerational farm transfers through the Commons. Once it is passed by the Senate and receives royal assent, it will be implemented right away, the plan says.

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