By Jean-Paul McDonald
Canadian agriculture is at a crossroads with rising operational costs and regulatory challenges that threaten the industry's financial and mental health. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) has identified 18 critical actions in its latest Farm Financial Health Report, supported by Farm Management Canada, to guide Canadian farmers towards a sustainable future.
Here are the proposed recommendations for government action:
Cost Management and Sustainability Initiatives:
Expand Fuel Exemptions: Extend carbon pricing exemptions to natural gas and propane used in farming to ease energy costs.
Develop a Critical Input Strategy: Consult and create a reliable supply chain for essential farming inputs like fertilizer.
Advance Payments Program Revisions: Make interest-free limits for farm advances permanent to support farmers with rising production costs.
Enhance Capital Cost Allowance: Implement permanent full-year depreciation for farm equipment purchases to stimulate investment.
Regulatory and Risk Management Reforms:
Risk Management Grants: Start a grant program like the Canada Digital Adoption Program for on-farm risk management.
Weather Event Resilience: Use climate data to trigger responsive support for farmers facing extreme weather.
Increase AgriStability Coverage: Boost coverage to 85% to enhance predictability and support levels for farmers.
Resource PMRA Adequately: Ensure timely and science-based regulatory decisions for competitive farming practices.
UHT Return Exemption for Farms: Remove the requirement for farms to file returns for Underused Housing Tax to reduce administrative burdens.
Right to Repair Farm Machinery: Support legislative measures to ensure farmers can maintain their equipment.
Expand Interswitching Options: Extend rail interswitching distances and the pilot duration for better transportation flexibility.
Trade, Market Access, and Growth Strategies:
Grocery Code Office Support: Financially back the establishment of an adjudication office to implement a fair Grocery Industry Code of Conduct.
Launch an Inclusive Sustainable Agriculture Strategy: Ensure strategy funding matches the need for comprehensive agricultural sustainability.
Advocate Against Trade Barriers: Strengthen Canada's role in removing non-tariff barriers to enhance market access for agricultural products.
Protect Supply-Managed Sectors: Secure no further access concessions in future trade agreements for supply-managed farm sectors.
Support for New and Young Farmers:
National Workforce Strategy Secretariat: Fund the creation of a body to execute a workforce strategy for the agricultural sector.
Raise Capital Gains Exemption: Increase the exemption threshold in line with current farmland market values to aid farmer transitions.
Legislative Support for Farm Transfers: Amend tax laws to facilitate farm ownership transfers within families, including to siblings.
Through these recommendations, the CFA aims to guide farmers through economic headwinds with a proactive, resilient approach. The focus is on creating a supportive environment that fosters competitive, stable, and sustainable growth for the farming sector, reinforcing its pivotal role in national food security and the economy.
The CFA's report highlights to the ongoing advocacy and innovation needed to maintain the robustness of Canadian agriculture in the face of evolving global demands.