Farm organizations feel they were largely left out of the discussion about Growing Forward 2, and Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett said that must change.
He told the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan annual meeting in December that consultation with farm groups took place 18 months before the principles of the agreement were established.
“But something happened along the way,” he said. “It became government to government. We never did get a chance to engage.”
Bonnett said the decision to spend $430 million less on business risk management programming is not something farmers would have recommended.
For example, they wanted in-creased contributions to AgriInvest rather than a reduction in matched contributions. Cuts to AgriStability could have serious ramifications, he said.
“What is the backstop if things go wrong?”
Bonnett said governments would have asked organizations for help in meeting their budget restrictions if they were serious about properly consulting farmers, rather than imposing cuts.
“We’ve got to get back to the point where people recognize this is a partnership,” he said.
APAS vice-president Arlynn Kurtz asked when agricultural policy will move away from one-size-fits-all programs, which don’t work across the country.
He said Growing Forward 3 should provide the provinces with certain allotments and allow them to decide how to use the money. Saskatchewan could then develop a stronger, comprehensive crop insurance program, he added.
“We could throw all these other programs in the bush,” he told the meeting.
Bonnett said that would be a return to the former companion programs of previous agricultural policy frameworks and agreed it’s time to start discussing the next agreement.
He said governments must develop a system to monitor the impacts of the recent changes to AgriInvest and AgriStability.