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Agriculture Leaders Debate Election Issues

Canada's agriculture leaders discussed key election issues last Thursday night during a 90-minute debate hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA).

One of the seven main questions focused on this year's drought and Business Risk Management programs.

Liberal candidate Marie-Claude Bibeau had these comments:

"These programs can be improved and take into consideration climate risk and this is exactly the conversation that has already started with my provincial colleagues and with the industry. But in addition to that, we have to be proactive and we have to support our farmers to be more resilient to this new reality. This is why we are putting in place a $200 million program to give farmers incentives to adopt better management practices like rotational grazing, cover cropping, better management of nutrients and we will triple the investment in to the cleantech programs because it was so popular a few months ago, that we will triple the investment to reach almost half a billion dollars to help farmers afford energy-efficient equipment, for example for grain dryers, farm heating, or precision agriculture."

Conservative candidate Dave Epp had this response:

"The review of the Business Risk Management program was promised by this government and it's still not done. So what we have in place right now is AgriRecovery. The provinces stepped forward. Yes, the federal government put forward a small amount of money, nowhere near to the disaster that our western colleagues are facing. It was again leadership from the provinces that finally was matched at the 11th hour. Right now there are livestock starving, or livestock herds being dispersed. What about the Livestock Tax Deferral? Right now I'm aware of in Ontario 40,000 bales of hay waiting for some federal help on transportation to get to those needing that. Where is that leadership from the federal government?"

NDP candidate Alistair MacGregor had these thoughts:

"Absolutely, more help is going to be needed, not only for what's happened this year but in future years. It's very important for us to understand, this is now going to be a long-term trend and we are going to see more and more of these extreme weather events. If we don't start changing the policy to seriously confront climate change, our farmers are going to continue to see these effects and we have to ask ourselves as a country, how many more future tax dollars are we prepared to spend to mitigate against the effects of climate change before we understand that the smart money is to make those critical investments now. I think one of the important things that we can do is to help farmers, give them that support in better soil management techniques because we know that healthier soils are better able to withstand droughts and floods. It's one of the reasons why I was proud to introduce a private members bill to try and establish a national soil conservation strategy. It's going to require a lot of different things coming together but action is definitely needed because this problem is only going to get worse."

Bloc Québécois candidate Yves Perron also responded through a translator:

"We need rapid response, and I think that the four people attending this debate will agree with this. Financial assistance and disaster relief, well this is of course a disaster. But it's true also in the case of diplomatic conflicts which directly affect some crops. The aid, the assistance needs to be direct and quick and the emergency relief fund will help that, that's highly relevant. In addition to that, I referred to an environmental partnership, earlier, of course, all farmers want to protect the environment and it's in our best interest to do so because we depend on the quality of soil and the climate but we need to take collective responsibility. We can't put all the responsibility...on farmers. When it comes to shorelines, for example, everyone will win if we protect our waterways, so it's a win-win-win."

Other topics debated included the next agriculture policy framework, labour, a grocery code of conduct, environmental support, supply management, and infrastructure priorities.

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