Ag buried in red tape

Paperwork discourages ag business owners

When Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett gets talking about “stupid paperwork” and stifling regulation, he will inevitably bring up farmers who mix their own feed.

“The paperwork required for farmers doing their own feed is just unreal,” the Ontario farmer said.

“For a lot of farmers, the regulations can be frustrating as hell.”

For Greg Simpson of Simpson Seeds Inc. in Moose Jaw, it is the regulatory penalties he must face because he imports bags from Indonesia to pack with lentils that are then shipped to customers around the world.

The government requires the company pay a duty to bring the bags into the country as a way to encourage purchases from a Canadian manufacturer of similar bags. Getting the duty refunded requires plenty of paperwork.

Simpson, featured in a regulation-critical video produced by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said government red tape discourages agricultural business operators.

“I think it will kill the entrepreneurial spirit,” he said in the CFIB video.

A federal red tape reduction commission agreed. In a sweeping mid-January report that made recommendations throughout government, it urged Ottawa to cut unnecessary food and agriculture regulation, including in agriculture, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Health Canada.

Agriculture minister Gerry Ritz embraced the proposals for deregulation, citing the planned end of the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly and its buy-back regulations next summer as an example of reducing regulation that impedes farmer business decisions.

“Farming, not form filling, made Canada’s agriculture industry the powerful economic driver it is today,” he said in a news release.

In releasing the report, small business minister of state Maxime Bernier embraced the idea of giving the auditor general the power to oversee regulatory reform, including a commitment that whenever a new regulation is being added, an older regulation should be eliminated.

Ritz said Agriculture Canada accepts the “one-for-one” recommendation.

“This will require the removal of at least one regulation each time a new one is introduced that imposes administrative burden on business.”

Critics complained that the proposal to reduce regulations and what Bernier called the need to work on “the process of controlling federal regulation and its irritants” was simply a proposal to give the corporate sector more power and less public oversight.

Bonnett said the critics do not understand the regulatory over-burden that makes agriculture less competitive.

“Canadian farmers face a myriad of regulations each day and any effort to streamline or reduce redundancy will help farmers’ bottom line.”

Bonnett said health, food safety and animal welfare regulatory protections must not be compromised, but rules for approving agricultural inputs should be harmonized when possible so Canadian farmers have access to the same tools available to foreign competitors.

The CFIB said a survey of farmer members found that 67 percent reported regulatory requirements had increased in the past three years, the highest result among small business sectors.

“Farmers have spoken,” said a CFIB statement. “They want governments to take immediate action and place a higher priority on cutting red tape at the farmgate.”

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