U.S. fruit and vegetable farmers get more green funding
Growers take all the risks, while grocery chains reap the rewards
Farmers Forum staff
OTTAWA — Canada needs to level the playing field to make Canadian fruit and vegetable growers more profitable, the executive director of the Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association told the House of Commons standing committee on agriculture last month.
As it stands, U.S. growers receive double the amount of green agriculture funding as do Canadian counterparts, Dr. Rebecca Lee told the committee on Dec. 5.
“There’s a big difference in the amount of supports that are provided in terms of, for example, the environmental programs they have,” Lee said. “We analyzed them, and green funds are available to Canadian farmers per acre at $2.95 versus over $6 per acre for farmers in the United States. Right there it’s demonstrated that we have fewer supports.
“Strengthening our BRM programs, our business risk management programs, would also help.”
Lianne Rood (CON: Lambton-Kent-Middlesex): “What I’m hearing is that growers are taking all the risks while we see the grocery chains reaping all of the rewards.
“You mentioned that 44% (of Canadian producers) are selling at a loss. I’m wondering about the impact on the farm. Are we in jeopardy of losing farms? How many would be in jeopardy? What does this do to our food security?
Dr. Rebecca Lee: “I would love to know the number, just to know what’s happening in detail. I do know of farms that have already decided not to continue. Again going back to the next generation, they don’t have a next-gen person to take over. They’re not interested under these circumstances. It’s just one thing after another that’s being burdened on the farmers.
“ What they could also be doing is switching to products that are not fruit and vegetable that are less labour-intensive and less input-intensive. We would end up probably importing a lot more of our fruit and vegetables as a result.”
Lianne Rood: “Do you think the increase in the carbon tax will also hasten this demise for farmers?”
Dr. Rebecca Lee: “It could very well do.”
Lianne Rood: “Are there any actions from the supply chain task force that need to be taken?”
Dr. Rebecca Lee: “Yes. I’ve mentioned addressing the labour shortage issues and employee retention. Establishing a federal supply chain office to reunify relevant federal government activities would be another as would protecting corridors, border crossings and gateways from disruption.
“We want to make sure that we have a free flow of goods, so one action would be developing a national transportation supply chain strategy and engaging the United States, the provinces and territories to achieve mutual recognition of regulation policies and processes.”