Liberals plan to change Farm Credit Canada

Party’s election platform includes commitment to turn FCC into a single service point for all parts of the food economy 

The Liberal plan to expand and rename Farm Credit Canada poses more questions than answers.

The party platform’s Investing in Rural Success section includes a promise to streamline services and increase investments to help make Canada the second-largest exporter of agricultural products by 2025.

“We will merge exiting financial and advisory services currently scattered between several agencies into Farm Credit Canada, whose mandate will be expanded and enhanced,” the platform document states.

FCC would be renamed Farm and Food Development Canada and act as a single service point for all parts of the food economy.

Agricultural economist Tristan Skolrud said the scant details make it difficult to determine exactly what a Liberal government would do.

“Perhaps they’re thinking of stripping out all of those programs from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada umbrella?” he said, referring to the many programs under the department’s purview. “The explicit discussion of AgriStability makes me think that could be the case.”

The platform says a Liberal government would “increase federal support to help farmers manage risks beyond their control” while moving forward with a collaborative review of business risk management programs, focusing on AgriStability. However, a review has been ongoing for a few years and while farm organizations have called for more money the total envelope hasn’t yet changed.

Skolrud, who works at the University of Saskatchewan, said merging financial programs into a single agency could work if enough resources are allocated.

“Would existing FCC offices be expected to administer all of their programs plus the new programs without any increase in personnel?” he questioned, or would Agriculture Canada staff be reallocated.

He said a botched merger could lead to worse service.

“On the positive side, there are many more local FCC offices compared to AAFC (and) perhaps moving AAFC business programs to FCC would give them higher local visibility,” he said.

The Liberals say the expanded agency would have capital lending ability of up to $5 billion per year more than what FCC currently offers.

Skolrud said that could have major consequences, particularly for young farmers wanting to buy land and other farmers who want to buy more. And, he said the source of the money is another question.

The Liberals also promise tax changes to ease intergenerational farm transfers, more assistance for exporters, no reintroduction of the long-gun registry, and full support for supply managed farmers and processors.

A new Western Economic Diversification technology and commercial support fund would help farmers and others participate in developing cleaner fuels from things like crop residue.

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