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Senator Plett reaffirms his dissatisfaction with the Trudeau Government’s treatment of the Agriculture Industry

Ottawa, ON – The Honourable Don Plett, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, issued the following statement:
 
Agriculture has always been essential to our country, from the early beginnings of colonial activity to the society that we live in today. Canada has thrived on the dedicated and tireless work of farmers from across our country. Canadians realize the importance of the contributions of our agriculture sector; from the settlers who as early as 1605 drained coastal marshes to grow wheat, flax and vegetables and raised livestock, to today’s large and small family farms across the country. 
 
Unfortunately, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Trudeau Government’s tepid action on the agriculture file demonstrates this industry isn’t a priority for them. 
 
On May 5th, when the Prime Minister announced new spending of $252 million to support farmers, food businesses, and food processors, it was 10% of the $2.6 billion the industry said they needed. As part of this package, the government said it intended to increase the Canadian Dairy Commission's borrowing limit by $200 million to cover costs related to having to store excess cheese and butter. Today, the Senate of Canada will be providing consent to Bill C-16, An Act to amend the Canadian Dairy Commission Act. 
 
Senator Plett said, “The crisis we face has generated unpredictability in the demand for milk, and weekly fluctuations. Dairy farmers have had no choice but to dump their milk. There is no doubt in my mind that this legislation is required to help our dairy industry navigate these turbulent times. But, let me be clear, the government’s assistance to the agriculture industry during this pandemic has been totally inadequate.”
 
Senator Plett outlined his dissatisfaction with the Trudeau Government’s support of the agriculture industry with the following arguments in the Senate today:
 
  1. Last month, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture assessed the COVID-related needs of the agriculture industry to be $2.6 billion. The government responded with an announcement that the industry would receive $252 million. That is less than 10 percent of what the industry requires, and less than 0.17 percent of the government's total direct spending on the coronavirus crisis to date;
  2. The funding announcement made by the Trudeau Government to help food producers respond to emerging pressures from COVID-19 in order to better supply Canadians with food during this period won’t be available until the end of September.  This includes funds to access more personal protective equipment, adapt to health protocols, and automate or modernize their facilities, processes, and operations. There are still no details on what the requirements will be to qualify. Meat-processing plants have been hit hard by the coronavirus, and many have had to reduce their production, while some have had to close following outbreaks;
  3. The government’s announcement includes $125 million to help livestock producers faced with additional costs incurred by COVID-19. Cattle and hog farmers will be provided with management programs to help them deal with backed-up livestock, due to the temporary closure of food processing plants. If distributed on a per-head basis, this $125 million would cover a producer’s livestock production costs for only 12 to 24 hours, depending on the kind of livestock;
  4. Much of the announced assistance to agriculture is just a re-announcement of previous commitments, not new money for COVID-19 challenges. The government neglected to underline this fact in its announcement. For instance, the financial support announced for AgriRecovery is not new money, it was part of the Department of Agriculture’s previously planned spending for the year. The same is true for the increase of liquidity measures through Farm Credit Canada. Instead of a new COVID-19 assistance program, the Liberals simply re-announced a 2019 campaign commitment;
  5. The government promised the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Dairy Processors Association of Canada that the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) would not be implemented prior to August 1 of this year. This would allow the sector to have a full 12 months of exports at the year-one threshold limit on key dairy products, before being constrained by the significant reduction conceded in year two of the agreement.

    lnstead of honouring their promise to our dairy farmers and dairy producers, the Trudeau government was first out of the gate to give notice to the other parties that it was ready to implement CUSMA a month earlier than promised. By ratifying the trade deal one month early, the government robbed the dairy industry of 11 months of operations at a preferred export threshold limit. This will cost the industry $100 million;

  6. Canada’s grain growers were completely excluded from the $252 million package for agriculture and agri-food. They are not only affected by the crisis but are subject to the carbon tax increase as well. Farming requires the intensive use of carbon-based fuels, but Prime Minister Trudeau has refused to acknowledge this. He has not given our agriculture producers an appropriate exemption on grain drying, rail transportation, heating and electricity, or trucking. These all require carbon-based fossil fuels that have been increasingly taxed by the Trudeau government. Furthermore, farmers are price-takers and will be unable to pass these costs on. 

    The net result of these two factors, according to research done by the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, is that, “In less than two years, when the carbon tax increases to $50/tonne in 2022, this bill will go up to $13,000-17,000 for the same household – the equivalent of a 12% decrease in net income.”
 
“The seriousness of the challenges faced by the agriculture industry require leadership by the Trudeau government, and the poor attitude shown so far is completely inexcusable.
 
Our agriculture industry puts food on our tables, yet this government has shown a troubling lack of support for the sector. This illustrates the incompetence with which it is handling the myriad issues that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Parliamentarians have a duty and responsibility to ensure that the government is on the right track, and I’m afraid they’re not. They broke their promise to the dairy industry, and have recycled programs. This Liberal government’s pattern of re-announcing already existing support for the agriculture sector clearly demonstrates they do not take this industry seriously. If it was a priority, that would be reflected in the decisions they make and the funding they provide to the industry,” Senator Plett said.
Source : SenateOfCanada

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