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Budget delivers a strong nod to the agri-food sector

Ag Canada and CFIA will get millions to rehabilitate agricultural research stations.

By Alex Binkley, The Ontario Farmer

The Trudeau government appears to have been listening to calls from agriculture organizations for more research, better business risk management and expanded trade opportunities because all three items received attention in Finance Minister Bill Morneau’s first budget.

The sector “is a vital part of our economy that supports both rural and urban communities,” Morneau said.  “The government is committed to supporting an agriculture and agri-food sector that is strong and innovative.”

While no new money was promised for Growing Forward 3, the minister singled out BRM for helping farmers manage “severe market volatility and disaster situations.”

Agriculture was also cited for its potential to contribute to clean energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Starting in the new fiscal year that begins April 1, the government will give Agriculture Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency $41.5 million over six years to rehabilitate agriculture research stations and laboratories in Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia, he said.

As well, Ottawa will allocate over $30 million over six years “to support advanced research in agriculture genomics.”  Basic agriculture research could be in line for additional financial support following a review of fundamental federal science research by Science Minister Kirsty Duncan.

CFIA will receive $38.5 million during the next two years to improve inspection in “high-risk domestic and imported foods.”

That will include enhanced inspection of foreign food suppliers “to assist in responding to food safety risks before they reach domestic consumers.”  Morneau said the safety of Canada’s food supply helps boost exports.

Ron Bonnet, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, said in an interview that he “was really struck by the budget’s identification of agri-food’s economic importance to both the economy and climate change mitigation.”  The praise is repeated in several parts of the budget.

One CFA priority that didn’t make it in this budget is changes to federal tax rules to ease intergenerational transfers of farms.  Bonnet said meetings are scheduled with Finance Department officials in the near future on that issue.

He also welcomed the promise of $500 million over the next five years “to extend and enhance broadband service in rural and remote communities.”  Details will be announced later.

Morneau said the government is committed to quick ratification of the free trade deal with Europe “so that our citizens can quickly reap the benefits of this high quality agreement.”

Consultations will continue on the Trans-Pacific Pact agreement and the government “is committed to deepening trade relationships with large emerging markets, including China and India.”

Serge Buy, CEO of the Agriculture Institute of Canada, said the budget announcements “demonstrate that the federal government is supportive of Canada’s agricultural research sector.  When it comes to agricultural research, Canada has a wealth of knowledge.  With the right support, we can be a world leader.”

The AIC has developed a National Policy on Agricultural Research and is “looking forward to working with the federal government on these future investments,” he added.

He said the sector would also benefit from a $1 billion over four years program to support the development of clean technology across a number of sectors including agriculture.

Morneau said the government will conduct consultations later this year on eliminating tariffs on food manufacturing ingredients other than supply managed products.  “These ingredients are primarily used in the agri-food processing industry, Canada’s largest manufacturing employer and an important contributor to Canada’s economy.

Eliminating tariffs on imported ingredients will support investment and job creation in this important sector strengthening the competitiveness of Canadian agri-food processors in domestic and foreign markets.”

Details of the government’s clean technology plans will be announced later this year and should include programs that farmers can tap into.

View the article here.