Parties address agriculture using a variety of promises

All major parties have vowed to put agriculture at the heart of their decision-making. A review of their policies that affect prairie farmers places agriculture in various stages of importance.

Farm groups have issued their priorities. Addressing market access issues is on everyone’s list. A federally funded program to address damage from market issues has been suggested.

Adjustments to business risk management programs are also on everyone’s list.

Other issues of importance are addressing the growing rejection of glyphosate, more farmer involvement in updating the grain act and changes to seed royalties, more relief from the carbon tax (including recognition of farm practices that reduce carbon emissions), and more investment and oversight in rail.

The Greens would essentially destroy Canada’s agricultural export market, so we need go no further.

All three other major parties would support supply management.

The NDP hasn’t said what it would do on GMOs, but agriculture critic Alistair MacGregor has said he is not in favour of them. The NDP also says it would “defend canola from unfair retaliation in overseas markets,” but hasn’t said how. High-speed broadband in all rural areas is mentioned, but with no time frame.

The NDP also promises low-cost start-up loans for new farmers, ending “unfair” tax treatment on family farm transfers, investment in public research, creation of local food hubs, a national food waste strategy, a national mental health strategy and making sure farmers are treated “fairly” by rail companies.

The Liberals have promised a “collaborative” review of business risk management programs “with a special focus on AgriStability,” saying they’re prepared to “increase federal support to farmers to help them manage risk beyond their control.”

They also promised to address tax measures on farm transfers to family members and to boost agribusiness exports to make Canada the world’s second largest exporter by 2025.

They will merge Farm Credit Canada with other financial and advisory services to make a new Farm and Food Development Canada to create a single point of service and increase lending capability by up to $5 billion per year.

There is also a provision to support all supply managed sectors, including processor, in the wake of trade deals.

As well, the Liberals have promised high speed internet throughout Canada by 2030, to support technology to create cleaner fuels using canola and agricultural waste and to strengthen gun control with buyback programs and banning military assault rifles.

The Conservatives would “review” business subsidy programs, presumeably including the $153-million funding to the protein supercluster.

They would also scrap the carbon tax, modernize the Canada Grain Act and Canadian Grain Commission, return overcharged user fees to farmers, and make the Pest Management Regulatory Agency consider “competitiveness.”

They would also develop a strategy to deal with farm labour shortages, take China’s canola embargo to the World Trade Organization, make AgriStability “more simple, predictable, bankable, and timely,” and compensate all supply managed farmers for trade deals.

Other policies include applying to upgrade Canada’s BSE status to negligible risk in 2020, postpone and review the proposed new humane transport regulations, repeal Bill 71 (which amends the Firearms Act), and expand rural broadband.

While all platforms miss much of what farm groups have asked for, the Liberals’ have stressed boosting the agriculture sector with an eye toward exports, while the Conservatives have more micro-initiatives that are likely to satisfy farmers and rural dwellers.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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