Farmers don't want handouts, they want consistency, says ag critic

When it comes to government and policy, there are almost always points of contention when it comes to what is right and what is best for your country as a whole.

Throw in a global pandemic and a failing economic landscape, and the grey area becomes even larger.

John Barlow, MP for Foothills, Alta. and agriculture shadow minister with the Conservative Party of Canada, says with the crisis we are facing, agriculture and foreign affairs need to be prioritized first.

“I don’t think that there is any question that this is not on their radar. I think when we now see the numbers that were compiled by StatsCanada and you see since 2015, since the Liberals were elected, the loss in market access is 5.6 billion dollars for agriculture. That’s not a small number. That is substantial,” Barlow says, adding that yes, China is talked about a lot, but it’s also a matter of keeping our other free-market accesses open, such as with India, Italy, Peru, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam.

“To see these markets lost — not because of a quality issue, but because of geopolitical mistakes — is not okay. I think what the Liberal government needs to do is put more of a focus on is reopening access to these very critical markets.”

While the United States is currently sending or planning to send direct payment plans to farmers, many are asking why this isn’t happening in Canada at this point. Barlow says he believes handouts aren’t what is best for Canadian farmers, but rather the ability for farmers to sell their product — and have a sense of consistency  — is what is crucial.

“Obviously, when you are in agriculture you understand that there are variables outside of your control. Whether it’s commodity prices or those types of things. But there are some things you look to government to offer some sort of accountability. Reliable infrastructure, competitive tax regime, and regulatory regime,” says Barlow. “And you want to ensure you have free access to some important markets. On those pillars, the liberal government is failing right now. To be putting on a carbon tax, which we’ve seen is costing producers tens of thousands of dollars is making them uncompetitive. ”

Barlow adds the government needs to look outside the box for whatever measures need to invoked to ensure producers can stay relatively unscathed through the COVID-19 landscape, and right now, he says they simply aren’t doing enough.

“While the Liberal Agriculture Minister has stated that declaring the agriculture sector as essential is a ‘top priority,’ she has failed to follow through on this promise. The fact is, that Canada’s farmers, producers, and processors cannot wait any longer.”

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