New gov’t farm programs resemble previous versions

The strategic initiatives offered in Saskatchewan under the next five-year, federal-provincial agricultural agreement look a lot like the programs offered the previous five years.

Programs available as of April 1 under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership were announced March 28. The pot of money for the programs is the same at $388 million over the life of the agreement.

Saskatchewan Agriculture Minister Lyle Stewart said the programs focus on the six priority areas identified by ministers at a Calgary meeting in 2016: science, research and innovation; environmental sustainability and climate change; risk management (but not business risk management programs, which fall under a separate funding envelope); value-added agriculture and agri-food processing; public trust; and trade and market development.

“People will find most of the programming very familiar,” he said.

There are two key changes, however. Previously, the threshold of minimum gross farm income to be eligible for the programs was $35,000. It is now $50,000. Stewart said the change is designed to ensure the focus is on agricultural operations, not hobby farms.

“We only have so much money to go around and focusing on commercial operations is more productive,” he said.

The other change is the requirement for livestock producers to have a premises identification number before they can access programs. Stewart has been warning producers for months that they will need a PID to participate.

All livestock producers in Saskatchewan have their PID numbers except the cattle industry. The ministry said as of March 28, 6,449 cattle producers had active PID accounts. That represents about 40 percent of operations.

Most programs offering business management advice have been removed from CAP.

“Industry told us it was needed at one time but they told us during consultations they’ve really moved beyond what we can provide,” Stewart said.

The initiatives remain focused on research and include popular programs such as the Farm and Ranch Water Infrastructure Program, environmental farm plans and the farm stewardship program.

Saskatchewan can spend a maximum of $71.2 million per year on these programs; Ottawa holds back $6.4 million each year for potential strategic federal programs.

Stewart added that farmers who want detailed information about the programs should contact the Ag Knowledge Centre.

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