The government is committing money to climate programs and to address foreign workers and labour challenges
By Diego Flammini
The federal government will spend money to help improve Canada’s agricultural sector.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s budget, which focuses on housing, climate, jobs and affordability, allocates federal dollars to programs and policies in the ag space.
One program to receive funding is the Agricultural Clean Technology Program.
The federal government promises to spend an additional $329.4 million over six years, starting in 2022-23, to triple the size of the program.
This program, designed to help farmers and agri-businesses develop and adopt clean technologies, received $165.7 million during its first phase. Of that amount, $50 million was targeted specifically for the purchase of more efficient grain dryers.
The On-Farm Climate Action Fund will also receive more federal dollars.
The budget commits $469.5 million over six years for the program, which is designed to help farmers tackle climate change.
Another $150 million is proposed for “a resilience agricultural landscape program to support carbon sequestration, adaptation, and address other environmental co-benefits, to be discussed with provinces and territories.”
And another $100 million over six years beginning in 2022-23 to the federal granting councils “to support post-secondary research in developing technologies and crop varieties that will allow for net-zero emission agriculture.”
Canada has three granting councils: the Canadian Institutes of Human Health, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
The Nature Smart Climate Solutions Fund will also receive federal funding.
The budget proposes $780 million over five years to Environment and Climate Change Canada to expand the fund, which supports projects dedicated to restoring and enhancing wetlands, peatlands and grasslands to capture and store carbon.
The federal government also promises to improve the Canadian ag labour situation.
This includes $29.3 million over three years to introduce a Trusted Employer Model to reduce red rape for repeat employers who meet high standards in certain categories.
Another $48.2 million over three years will be used to implement a new foreign labour program for agriculture and fish processing.
Ottawa commits to spending $64.6 million over three years to increase capacity to process employer applications and $14.6 million in 2022-23 to make improvements to the quality of employer inspections.
A national school food policy is also part of the government’s plan.
Agriculture Minister Bibeau, as well as the minister of families, children and social development, Karina Gould, will work with stakeholders to develop this policy.
Some direct funding will go towards P.E.I.’s potato industry.
The federal government proposed $16 million over two years to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency to support investments in P.E.I.’s potato sector and supply chain.
And $12 million over two years will go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to help it accelerate the investigation into potato wart, prevent spread and help resume full trade with the United States.
In addition, the government will announce compensation for supply-managed sectors during the 2022 fall economic and fiscal update.
Industry groups and professionals are unsatisfied with ag’s place in the budget.
The budget shows agriculture isn’t a priority for this government, said Dr. Sylvain Charlebois, senior director of the Agri-Food Analytics Lab at Dalhousie University.
“Read #Budget2022, 304 pages, not one section dedicated to agri-food, with famine and food inflation reaching record levels,” he said on Twitter Thursday. “Food and agriculture are in different places, but no focus. For Ottawa, our agri-food sector is simply an afterthought.”
The budget leaves farmers with more questions than answers, said Ian Boxall, president of Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan.
“The next 5-year federal-provincial Canadian Agricultural Partnership agreement is still being negotiated by the governments, and we don’t have any indication of commitments to increase funding for most of our essential programming,” he said in a statement. “In other areas, we have to wait and see if there is going to be more progress on agricultural priorities.”