Federal budget “underwhelming” for agriculture

The 2018-19 federal budget tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau on Tuesday did not contain any major farm programs or funding.

“We had to do some deep digging to actually see some positives for farmers. It’s really lacking compared to budget 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,” says Jeff Nielsen, Alberta farmer and president of Grain Growers of Canada, in the interview below.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture said it was “underwhelmed” by the budget.

“The CFA is pleased that budget 2018 includes moderate investments that will support the agricultural sector, but we’re 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,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, in a statement. “…agriculture and agri-food received relatively few mentions in the Minister’s speech and budget plan.”

“Ignoring the farming community is something that farmers are used to but refuse to accept. We contribute a huge portion of the Canadian economy”, stated Levi Wood, President.

Further to Bonnett and Nielsen’s comments, there was no chapter specific to agriculture, but the budget did include some initiatives that are potentially of interest to the farm community. (continues below)

Listen to Jeff Nielsen and Kelvin Heppner discuss Budget 2018 at the Western Canadian Wheat Growers’ convention in Washington, DC:

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.

“This includes bolstering the number of Canadian diplomats and trade commissioners on the ground in China as well as new initiatives to promote Canada’s trade with China and other Asian markets,” says the budget text.

The government also says it is continuing to pursue several new trade agreements, referencing exploratory talks with China and discussions with regional groups including the Pacific Alliance (Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru), Mercosur (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

With gender equality being a theme throughout the budget, the government says it will launch a new loan program in 2018-19 through Farm Credit Canada designed for 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.)

Nielsen notes the budget also shows $100 million that was earmarked for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada programs for 2017-18 that went unspent.

“We’re questioning that. This is investment that we could make into Canadian agriculture,” he says.

The budget also lays out new details on Ottawa’s plan to change how passive investment income is taxed under corporations, following up on the small business tax changes proposed last summer. (More to come on this topic.)

Overall, the budget forecasts a deficit of $18.1 billion for 2018-19.

Other notables:

  • $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. (See more on this topic here.)
  • $49.1 million has been committed to Statistics Canada over six years to conduct the 2021 Census of Agriculture
  • $173.2 million to support security operations at the Canada-U.S. border and the processing of asylum claimants arriving in 2018–19
  • $231.4 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $13.5 million per year ongoing, for additional measures to help address the opioid crisis.
  • $4.3 million over five years to support the reopening of the Penitentiary Farms at the Joyceville and Collins Bay Institutions in Kingston, Ontario
  • $1.2 billion over five years, starting in 2018–19, and $344.7 million per year thereafter, to introduce a new EI Parental Sharing Benefit. The benefit will provide additional weeks of “use it or lose it” EI parental benefits, when both parents agree to share parental leave. This incentive is expected to be available starting June 2019.
 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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