OTTAWA — The Canadian Federation of Agriculture says it is ‘underwhelmed’ by the Feb. 27 federal budget.
CFA president Ron Bonnett says that farm organization is “disappointed that the government hasn’t directly followed up on the vision from last year’s budget, which set ambitious targets to grow the industry for the benefit of all Canadians.”
Bonnett added that “agriculture and agri-food received relatively few mentions in the Minister’s speech and budget plan.
CFA is pleased to see commitments that will modernize regulatory systems, recognize innovation, support the pursuit of new markets, and allow more access to capital for women entrepreneurs. On small business tax reforms, CFA is pleased that changes regarding passive investment incomes have been further clarified.”
But in short, the 2018-19 federal budget did not contain any major farm programs or funding.
“We had to do some deep digging to actually see some positives for farmers,” said Grain Growers of Canada president and Alberta farmer Jeff Nielson. “It’s really lacking compared to budget of 2017 when they had ambitious goals for agriculture — exports worth $75 billion by 2025. This year we didn’t see much to deliver on that promise of last year.”
In a more strongly worded statement, Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association president Levi Wood said: “Ignoring the farming community is something that farmers are used to but refuse to accept. We contribute a huge portion of the Canadian economy.”
Citing a commitment to doubling bilateral trade with China by 2025, the Liberals are pledging $75 million over five years, with $11.8 million per year beyond that, for Global Affairs Canada to build a stronger diplomatic and trade support presence in China and Asia. But alarm bells have sounded in other countries where trading with China means trading with the Communist government that has been known for bribing its way to influence.
Overall, the budget forecasts a deficit of $18.1 billion for 2018-19, which is like putting $18.1 billion on a credit card to be paid at a later date. However, the federal government is already paying about $25 billion each year just to cover the interest on the total outstanding balance.
Other ag features:
• Pushing gender equality throughout the budget, the government will launch a new loan program in 2018-19 through Farm Credit Canada to encourage women entrepreneurs.
• The budget does not include any commitment for compensating the supply-managed dairy and poultry sectors for market access concessions in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP.)
• The budget notes that $100 million that was earmarked for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programs for 2017-18 was not used.
• $100 million over five years for the Strategic Innovation Fund, with a particular focus on supporting projects that relate to low earth orbit satellites and next generation rural broadband.
• $49.1 million committed to Statistics Canada over six years for the 2021 Census of Agriculture
• $4.3 million over 5 years to reopen the penitentiary farms at the Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions in Kingston.