The ministry of agriculture asked industry reps for feedback
By Diego Flammini
Newfoundland and Labrador’s ministry of agriculture now has an idea of what members of the province’s ag sector would like to see in the next ag policy framework.
In September, prior to the federal and provincial ministers of agriculture meeting in Guelph, Ont. earlier this month, Newfoundland and Labrador’s ag ministry asked stakeholders about which programs work under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) and what priorities need to be considered for the next framework.
“A strong agriculture sector is vital to our health and security, and our farmers and producers work tirelessly to provide fresh food here at home,” Derrick Bragg, Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of agriculture, said in a statement.
“Thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts and experiences with us – your input will help set the direction of future funding opportunities to give new farmers the support they need to take on new ventures, and enable seasoned farmers to explore innovative ways to expand their operations.”
CAP, the $3-billion, five-year framework agreement between the federal and provincial governments, started on April 1, 2018 and expires on March 31, 2023. The federal government provided Newfoundland and Labrador with $37 million.
On climate change, Newfoundland farmers are calling for policies and incentives to manage the issue.
“To help reduce (greenhouse gases), participants said there may be an opportunity to consider funding for farm equipment, including tractors, with reduced emissions,” the report says.
The COVID-19 pandemic challenged farmers and agribusinesses in multiple ways including contactless pickups, labour shortages and increased input costs.
One bright spot, however, is the focus on local food.
Survey respondents identified a “renewed appetite and demand for locally grown products among Newfoundland and Labrador consumers.”
When it comes to labour specifically, bringing in more temporary foreign workers could help with worker shortages.
In addition, these workers could help identify new opportunities for farmers.
“Labour shortages may present an opportunity to increase the province’s population by providing employment for immigrants from other countries,” the ministry’s report says. “Immigration also creates a demand for culturally specific foods, which can lead to diversification of locally grown crops.”
Bringing in new farmers should also be a priority for the next ag policy framework.
The average age of a farmer in Newfoundland and Labrador is 55.8.
Education and outreach is needed to bring younger people into the sector.
These steps can include job promotion, social media outreach and educating the public on opportunities in ag using automation and robotics, the report says.
Survey participants identified a lack of infrastructure as another item the next policy framework could include.
A lack of abattoirs and vegetable storage facilities, for example, is hindering growth.
“The livestock sector also noted limited ability to access grocery chains due to the lack of a federally inspected (processing) facility in the province,” the report reads.
Funding to encourage small-scale farming and alternative methods like aquaponics and hydroponics would be considered too, survey respondents said.
Other challenges identified in the report include:
- Access to suitable farmland.
- Mental health.
- Ensuring the pest-free status of the province’s honeybees.
- Marketplace challenges due to alternative products like almond dairy beverages.
- Building public trust.
- A lack of value-added processing facilities.