I was pleased to recently host representatives from the local Agricultural community.
Thank-you to Renfrew County Federation of Agriculture representatives Dean Matheson and Deb Knapton; National Farmers Union Representatives Tony Straathof and Tim Tabbert; Renfrew County Cattlemen David McGonigal and Craig McLaughlin; and Dairy Representative John Couglin for taking the time to share issues of importance to their members. The frank discussion on a variety of topics made for a productive meeting.
The first Trudeau budget contained no new programs for farmers. The current suite of Agricultural programs, Growing Forward 2, that was set in place by the previous Conservative Government is due to expire in 2018. Concern was expressed that a re-commitment to agricultural business risk management programs needs to be in place before the current program expires.
The paperwork and red tape associated with government programs are excessive. Much unproductive time is wasted on forms. Not all farmers have operations expansive enough to afford hiring people just to complete forms. Stiff bureaucratic penalties are imposed if forms are not completed. Many local farmers are at a disadvantgage when it comes to completing forms over the internet due to the lack of high-speed broadband internet. The “last mile” of connectivity needs to be installed in rural areas.
The local dairy industry is suffering from a lack of processing capacity. Demand and product are available. Any new funding for the dairy sector needs to address the processing gap.
While agricultural producers were very appreciative of the former Conservative Government’s efforts to find new markets by signing trade agreements, concern was expressed that as is the case with Europe, some countries have non-tariff barriers to insulate their producers from competition, while bargaining for unfettered access to the Canadian market. These issues need to be dealt with before they cause harm to Canadian agricultural producers.
Natural Gas access to rural Ontario is a waste of time and taxpayers’ dollars because the Liberal policy of carbon taxes seeks to remove any price advantage a fossil fuel may have by taxing it so that it is more expensive than other forms of energy. Carbon taxes target farmers. It requires farmers to pay for the Liberal policy on climate change with no compensation. Farmers receive no recognition for the investments they make in their operations. An example was given of an agricultural producer who spent thousands of dollars in retro-fitting barns in an attempt to reduce his $38,000 annual electricity bill. Price hikes in electricity wiped out any savings. The carbon tax piled onto the out-of-control price of electricity just makes a bad situation worse. The carbon tax makes Canadian farmers less competitive at a time when our largest trading partner, the United States, is reducing taxes and has rejected a carbon tax as a job killer.
There will be no new next generation of farmers. Young people, who cannot make a decent living, are being forced to leave the family farm.
Governments in Ottawa and Toronto need to start listening before it is too late.