Federal agriculture minister pushing for climate incentives in business risk management programs

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Federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture from across Canada met in Ottawa on Monday to discuss the next agricultural policy framework ahead of their annual meeting in Saskatoon in July, where they hope to sign a new five-year agreement.

The ministers, nine of whom attended in-person, spent their morning session discussing want they want to see in the framework that will replace the $3 billion Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which expires in March 2023. The afternoon portion of their meeting was spent on various other issues, including the H5N1 avian influenza outbreak, global food security following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the creation of a grocery code of conduct.

“We were discussing the next policy framework for 2023 till 2028. We had a very good discussion,” says Bibeau, in the interview below. “Obviously, as the federal minister, I’ve put a lot of emphasis on our objective to reduce emissions in the ag sector, while recognizing that all the provinces and territories are working hard, and they have different ways to achieve that reduction. So we were trying to find common ground on the objective, but also to do even better.”

When it comes to business risk management (BRM) programs, such as AgriInsurance, AgriStability and AgriInvest, Bibeau says the ministers are looking at making adjustments to the current programs, and not starting from scratch with new ideas for the next five-year framework.

“We’re trying to improve the programs we have,” she says, noting the federal government is still offering to increase the compensation rate under AgriStability from 70 to 80 per cent if enough provinces sign on. The three Prairie provinces have not agreed to the offer, as they would be required to contribute more money under the 60-40 federal-provincial funding agreement.

“We’re trying to be creative to find consensus, so we have to do our homework and share more information. It’s a bit early for me to get into more details, but I’m positive and confident that we will reach a consensus by July,” she says, regarding the stand-off on changes to AgriStability that dates back to November 2020.

Bibeau is also urging her provincial counterparts to integrate climate-related criteria or incentives into the next version of BRM programs.

“We are looking at ways to see how can we use the business risk management programs in a way to provide incentives to farmers to adopt sustainable or good practices. This is something that is being considered. Nothing has been decided yet, obviously, but this is just to illustrate the type of discussions that we’ve had today,” she says.

“We’re trying to be creative and to bring different options where all the provinces will be comfortable, so it could vary a bit from one province to another,” says Bibeau. “We’re not at the point that I can share very concrete things. It’s still in the air, but as the federal minister, I’m trying to find every way that will help reduce our emissions.”

Farm groups are calling for increased funding for the overall framework, but Bibeau does not say whether there’s any consensus on the increasing the size of the overall pot for the new agreement:

“We always talk a little bit about dollars, but I’ll just say that for our government, one of the priorities is really to reduce our emissions. And this is why in the last budget, we have announced $1 billion more for direct incentives for farmers, for investment in clean technologies. So it gives you an idea on the direction, and I think we are putting our money where our mouth is. From the federal point of view, this is really what I’m seeking. And we will see where we can land, where we can find a common ground by July.”

Regarding the ongoing avian influenza outbreak, Bibeau says the ministers discussed the possibility of provinces potentially seeking AgriRecovery disaster assistance if additional support is needed. She also notes the extension of the AgriStability sign-up deadline from April 30 to June 30 announced last week could allow poultry producers affected by the outbreak to participate in AgriStability.

The annual agriculture ministers’ summit โ€” the last one before the current FPT agreement expires in March โ€” is scheduled for July 20-22 in Saskatoon, Sask.

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