Provinces pushing for more overall funding for next Ag Policy Framework

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Several provinces are advocating for a larger overall funding envelope for the next Canadian agricultural policy framework, ahead of a meeting in Saskatchewan where agriculture ministers from across the country hope to finalize an agreement on the next five years of government programs for agriculture.

The next agricultural policy framework will be the main item on the agenda when federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) ag ministers hold their annual summit in Saskatoon July 20-22 — their last annual meeting before the current framework agreement, known as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, expires in March 2023.

The size of the overall funding pot for the framework has been static for the last several FPT agreements, and is due for a significant increase, says Derek Johnson, Manitoba’s Minister of Agriculture, in the interview below.

“We’re hoping that we’ll see as much as a 25 per cent increase, and of course we’re willing to match that in our provincial contribution,” he says.

Alberta Ag Minister Nate Horner and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe have also indicated they would support increased overall funding in recent interviews.

Whether the federal government is willing to also raise its contribution to maintain the traditional 60/40 federal-provincial cost sharing arrangement “is still in negotiations at the moment,” Johnson says. “But us in Manitoba, along with the majority of our colleagues, are really putting pressure on the federal government to increase their funding as well.”

The current Canadian Agricultural Partnership and its predecessor, the Growing Forward 2 framework, both included $3 billion for non-business risk management (BRM) programs over their five year spans. A 25 per cent increase applied to the entire non-BRM portion would result in an additional $750 million in funding. (Funding for BRM programs, including AgriInsurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest and AgriRecovery, is separate and fluctuates depending largely on market and weather conditions.)

Some of the increased funding the provinces are calling for could be linked to new climate-related programming, as climate change mitigation is one of the five-stated priorities the ministers agreed to in their “Guelph Statement” in late 2021.

In addition to dollar amounts, the integration of climate-related incentives or criteria into existing programs, including BRM programs, is another key area still under negotiation. One proposal that’s currently being considered includes introducing a top-up or bonus to AgriInvest payments to farms that adopt specific practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

81 per cent of farmer panelists in a RealAgristudies survey last week said they do not want environmental or emissions reduction requirements integrated into existing BRM programs. Several farm groups from across the country have also voiced opposition toward proposals that would add environmental cross-compliance.

“I’ve heard the same…with the exception of one proposal, I do believe. ” says Johnson. “I haven’t met anybody that has verbally expressed their displeasure in AgriInvest, using that as a tool and using that as a carrot rather than using the other programs as a stick.”

While the FPT negotiations are still ongoing, Johnson says he’s “very optimistic” the ministers will be able to reach an agreement-in-principle in Saskatoon.

“I’ve had conversations with my counterparts across Canada — predominantly with my neighbouring provinces — and we’re kind of all on the same page. I don’t feel it would benefit anybody to not come to an agreement and delay it for a year. Then you’re coming to an interim agreement, and all the work that we’ve done with changing circumstances might be for naught. So I really, really am hopeful that we are successful in having this agreement-in-principle signed here, mid-month.”

Listen to the interview below with Minister Johnson on Manitoba’s priorities for the next ag policy framework, the integration of climate-related priorities, and in the immediate term, support for Manitoba farmers affected by excess moisture and flooding:

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