Ag programs will open to cannabis

VANCOUVER — Cannabis growers will be eligible for federal agricultural funding after production becomes legal this fall.

But they won’t be able to access business risk management money.

Agriculture ministers meeting in Vancouver at their annual meeting last month agreed that because cannabis is considered an agricultural crop, producers will be able to apply for federal-only programs under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. Provinces will make their own decisions about eligibility for cost-shared CAP programs outside the business risk management programs. These could include things like varietal trials or environmental projects.

But income from cannabis production, either recreational or medicinal, won’t be eligible for AgriStability or AgriInvest.

Saskatchewan deputy minister Rick Burton said that income will be too volatile in the next few years as the industry starts up.

“When other jurisdictions had brought in legalization, it’s a very volatile market,” Burton said. “We’ve seen significant price drop through the first three years. We want to see it stabilize before we start providing programming in that area.”

Governments will monitor this as the industry grows to see if it warrants a change.

Although cannabis is regulated by the health and justice departments of the federal government, federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said it’s important to recognize it is an agricultural product and as such has access to programming.

“They have to submit the request for funding if it might be, let’s say, an environmental issue or an innovative issue,” he said. “It’s evaluated on that basis and should it be approved it would be approved.”

British Columbia Agriculture Minister Lana Popham said each province is looking at cannabis from its own perspective.

“There may be support coming from our province but we really haven’t landed on that yet,” she said.

B.C. municipalities are already dealing with complaints about the smell from legal operations on farmland. The B.C. government has given cities and districts the authority to prevent production on Agricultural Land Reserve lands. However, they can’t stop it if it is grown legally in an open field, in a structure that is soil-based or in an existing licensed operation.

Popham said that any odours from agricultural production are a concern. Cannabis is a new agricultural product and the government “will have to deal with that as we see fit.”

“There’s always going to be a conflict between agriculture and development, living side by side,” Popham added. “As the cannabis industry grows we will have to deal with that.”

Cannabis production becomes legal Oct. 17.

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