Federal, provincial, and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture met face-to-face for the second time this year to initiate action on a number of key proposals to improve support to Canadian producers. This meeting follows what has been a difficult year for many producers, mainly related to bad weather, the CN work stoppage, and market access issues.
Ministers recognized that the risks facing producers have changed, particularly with respect to climate and international trade, and that current programs may need to evolve to meet their needs. To start to address these changing risks, Ministers made targeted improvements to the AgriStability program.
Ministers asked officials to change the treatment of private insurance for the 2020 program year. In addition, understanding that administrative burden is an issue for many, in particular for smaller producers, Ministers agreed to launch a pilot in select jurisdictions to make applying for support easier, by using tax return information to simplify the application process.
Ministers’ engagement on key business risk management programs signalled a direct response to the changing risks faced by producers. The business risk management programs aim to provide producers with tools to ensure the viability of their operations and to manage risks largely beyond their control.
Officials are to report back to ministers in April on an assessment of the business risk management programs to ensure they are aligned with their intended objectives. In addition, officials are to develop options to make the programs more effective, agile, timely, and equitable for producers. In particular, officials are to evaluate the impact of changes to the reference margin limit and changes to eligible expenses under AgriStability.
Ministers also took the opportunity to advance other priorities in the agriculture sector. They reviewed FPT-industry work on prevention, preparedness, response and recovery planning to African swine fever (ASF), which is a shared responsibility. Ministers agreed on the importance of strong biosecurity protocols to prevent ASF from entering Canada. Since the Ministers’ last meeting in July, Canada has signed zoning agreements with the U.S. and the EU and continues to engage other trading partners to allow for trade to continue in the event of an outbreak.
Ministers also reiterated their commitment to evidence-based rules to support free and open trade, and resolved to continue the strong collaboration among jurisdictions and with industry to address market access restrictions. They discussed the trade challenges impacting industry, particularly the canola, pork and beef, and soy sectors and recognized the need to work with the sector to support industry’s sustainability, profitability and growth.
In support of Canada’s supply management system, Ministers reiterated the importance of providing compensation to supply-managed producers and processors in a full and fair way in response to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement. The federal government is taking the appropriate steps to announce details as soon as possible.
A roundtable session allowed ministers to discuss other priority items such as the importance of finding solutions to labour challenges facing the sector; issues including modernizing, aligning and eliminating overlaps and gaps in Canada’s regulatory framework to reduce barriers to interprovincial and international trade; mental health; and animal activism. Ministers are united in their commitment to strengthen Canada’s agri-food sector to increase global economic competitiveness and for the agriculture sector to realize its economic potential.
Ministers agreed to build on the progress made at this meeting and look ahead to their next annual conference in Guelph, Ont., in July 2020.
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