Agriculture ministers from across the country have agreed to five broad priorities, but few details, for the next agricultural policy framework following three days of meetings in Guelph, Ont.

The ministers released the “Guelph Statement” on Wednesday, which sets the direction for the suite of federal, provincial, and territorial programs from 2023 to 2028.

The declaration outlines five priorities: 1) climate change and the environment; 2) science, research and innovation; 3) market development and trade; 4) building sector capacity and growth; and 5) resiliency and public trust.

The ministers said they are aiming to sign the partnership agreement for the next five-year framework at their 2022 annual meeting in Saskatchewan in July, as the current five-year, $3 billion Canadian Agricultural Partnership is set to expire at the end of March 2023.

While the ministers have confirmed the priorities and guiding principles for the next framework, the conversation about how much money will be allocated to programming from 2023 to 2028 “has not started yet,” said Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau.

“This week, the idea was to agree on this vision for the next agreement,” said Bibeau, speaking with reporters after the meeting on Wednesday.

Regarding business risk management programs, which would fall under the “resiliency” priority, Bibeau said the ministers are “united in our commitment to improve the suite of programs, and will continue to work on various options for the next policy framework.”

Alberta, as an example, has pushed to replace the current AgriStability program with a margin-based insurance-type program. “We are open to consider another approach, such as the more general insurance program, but the priority for the coming months will be to improve the actual suite of programs,” said Bibeau.

As noted in the priorities, climate change mitigation will be a common theme in the next framework, based on the Guelph Statement and the ministers’ comments.

A climate component or incentive could potentially be integrated into BRM programs to drive adoption of best practices, said the federal minister.

“We want to encourage producers to go faster in the adoption of these practices that can make a difference in reducing our emissions or raising carbon sequestration, having better management of fertilizer, and others, so we’ll try to be creative in our ways to recognize these efforts and accelerate the movement in this direction,” said Bibeau. “All options are on the table. BRM could be a tool to do that, and other programs as well.”

Ontario Agriculture Minister Lisa Thompson, who co-chaired the meeting with Bibeau, noted the ministers agreed the need for BRM programs to “reflect regional diversity is paramount.”

“We recognize the importance of having flexibility to the programs, a timeliness to the programs that reflect the realities in each of our respective provinces. And so we look forward to continuing on these discussions,” said Thompson.

In addition to working on the next five-year framework, the ministers said they also discussed ongoing labour issues, African swine fever prevention and preparedness, the establishment of “Animal Health Canada,” trade and market access issues, regulatory priorities — including removing barriers to interprovincial trade and investment in the Canadian Plant Health Council, and the grocery industry’s work on the creation of a code of conduct and a dispute resolution framework. The ministers also heard from a panel on the topic of mental health in agriculture.

On Monday, the ministers heard from representatives from the Canadian Federation of Agriculture and national commodity groups, including the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, Canadian Canola Growers Association, Grain Growers of Canada, and the Canadian Pork Council, for a roundtable on the environment and climate change.

Ministers for B.C., Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the territories attended the meetings virtually. Ministers from the other provinces were in Guelph.

Saskatchewan is slated to host the next FPT annual meeting in July 2022.

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