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Federal Budget 2014: What’s in it for Agriculture?</

By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com

The federal conservatives tabled their budget Tuesday, which left little excitement for agriculture, as most of the items were announced ahead of time.

Although not a new piece of information, the Tory’s have included an initiative to launch a livestock insurance program for Western Canadian livestock producers. The program, which will start this spring, will provide an opportunity for cattle ranchers and pork producers to purchase insurance to protect against “unanticipated price declines.”

The pilot initiative is similar to that of Alberta’s existing livestock insurance program. Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz first announced the rollout of the insurance program at a bull breeder conference in January.

In an emailed statement attributed to Ritz provided by Jeffery English, the minister’s director of communications, said that the budget provides a clear plan to balance the books, while supporting farmers.

"This budget reaffirms support for Canadian farmers through Growing Forward 2 and the recently announced Western Livestock Price Insurance Program,” said Ritz.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty also included a tax deferral for farmers in the case of drought or flooding. The tax rule expands the wording to include breeding stock for horses and bees, which were previously ineligible under the livestock tax deferral.

In December of 2013, the government announced a new bill – The Agricultural Growth Act, which includes amendments to the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act. The budget makes mention of modernizing the act to align it with the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 91).

“Budget 2014 confirms this government's support to adopt and implement UPOV91 through the Agriculture Growth Act - legislation which explicitly includes a farmer's right to save, clean, and use seed for their own operations,” said Ritz.

The budget also includes something for the beer industry, promising to update the Food and Drug Regulations to reflect the changing ingredients in beer.

For rural parts of the country, the government has pledged more than $300 million over five years to improve access to high speed internet.

Opposition Ag Critics Weigh In

Both the NDP and Liberal agriculture critics said that the budget falls short on the agriculture front, emphasizing the grain backlog in Western Canada.

In an interview with Farms.com, Malcolm Allen, the Official Opposition Critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food, called the budget “pretty thin”. Allen said that other than the livestock insurance program for Western Canadian producers, there were no real measures that would speak to farmers directly.

He said that prairie farmers desperately need the government to “untangle the logistics mess” that is preventing them from moving their grain fast enough to port for export. Allen classified the situation as a “crisis” worthy of immediate action.

Allen also took a stab at the government’s move to rehire 200 food inspectors. He said that the 200 are not really new, since the government had previously eliminated 308 inspector jobs. The NDP said it would have liked to have seen an audit completed to determine what staffing resources the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) requires.

Mark Eyking, the Liberal agriculture critic echoed much of Allen’s concerns. Eyking said that the current grain situation costing farmers more than two billion dollars should have been addressed in the budget.

“This would have been a good opportunity for the government to do something tangible to help famers clean up this mess,” he said.

Eyking also commented on the food inspection agency, adding that it is becoming one of the most stressful jobs in the public sector. “With the switch over to Health Canada and the track record with CFIA, the Minister has not made it clear in this budget when these new inspectors will be hired or where they will be placed,” he explained.
 

 


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