Producers and public deserve clarity on the future of FCC

The Liberals’ vague promise to expand and enhance Farm Credit Canada remains as unclear now as it was when it was proposed ahead of the last federal election.

There is still no clear indication as to how Ottawa will rename FCC to Farm and Food Development Canada, let alone what that means besides simply rebranding the organization.

At the time, the Liberals promised, “to give food producers and processors better and more timely support, and to meet our goal of making Canada the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products by 2025, we will merge existing financial and advisory services currently scattered between several agencies into Farm Credit Canada, whose mandate will be expanded and enhanced.”

An added goal was to have the national farm lender act as a single service point for the food economy, with the ability to lend an additional $5 billion. FCC currently has a $36 billion portfolio.

The trouble is nobody seems capable of explaining what the heck any of that means, if anything, for FCC’s 2,000 employees or its even longer list of clients.

It has been suggested it was one of those blue sky ideas politicos come up with when trying to design an attractive platform. It’s easy enough to imagine high-level Liberal staffers brainstorming how to placate farmers angry about the carbon tax and, perhaps, filch a few rural votes from the Conservatives.

“Let’s say we’ll expand and enhance FCC,” says Liberal staffer one, in this hypothetical.

“What the heck does that mean?” asks Liberal staffer two.

“We’ll figure that out later,” they agree.

Much later, it seems. The election happened in October and we still have no idea what FCC’s future looks like.

For its part, the crown corporation says there are ongoing discussions taking place with government officials, but nothing from its vantage point has changed as it continues to carry out business as usual. It’s also worth noting there doesn’t seem to be a sense of panic among FCC employees as a result of the Liberal plan; just curiosity.

While it isn’t hard to find a producer who has a gripe about dealing with FCC, the lender appears to be accomplishing its stated mission of providing business and financial services or products to farming operations.

Of course, developing a grander, bolder vision for FCC was always going to take time.

This is particularly true in the context of the Liberal plan to increase agri-food exports to $75 billion by 2025, as referenced in the proposed FCC expansion. Perhaps there are discussions taking place as to how FCC can help better achieve that target, particularly given doubts about whether it can be achieved.

A new entity born out of FCC taking on — as has been suggested by some — the administration of programs currently under review, like business risk management programs, would add to the complexity and timeline of any expansion or enhancement announcement.

But at best these are informed guesses as to what the Liberals meant in the platform promise.

Requests made to Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau failed to offer any clarity on the matter because her office made no information available.

Considering the Liberals committed to reshaping a crown corporation with a sound reputation and long-standing history within the agriculture world, it is reasonable enough for them to offer at least some details on what the future of FCC holds.

As it stands, we’re left trying to fill in the blanks ourselves.

D.C. Fraser is Glacier Farm Media’s Ottawa correspondent. Reach out to him by emailing dfraser@farmmedia.com.

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