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National ag debate provides ag-centric platform highlights


September 14, 2021
By Potatoes in Canada

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On Sept. 9, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) hosted the National Agriculture Leaders Debate, with representatives from four of the national parties, ahead of the federal election taking place on Sept. 20.

The debate participants include:

  • Bloc Quebecois: Member of Parliament (MP) Yves Perron, critic for agriculture and agri-food, who participated through a translator;
  • Conservative Party of Canada: MP Dave Epp;
  • Liberal Party of Canada: Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food; and
  • NDP (New Democratic Party): MP Alistair MacGregor, critic for agriculture and agri-food.

A recording of the debate can be viewed here.

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The debate was moderated by RealAgriculture founder Shaun Haney and Martin Ménard, a reporter with La Terre chez nous. The debate was sponsored by Food, Health and Consumer Products of Canada.

The questions covered three key areas for Canadian agriculture: economic growth, the environment and climate change, and infrastructure. Questions also touched on business risk management (BRM) programming, disaster relief, supply management and more.

On the topic of this year’s drought and BRM programs, the representatives had the following to say:

BQ: “We need rapid response, and I think that the four people attending this debate will agree with this. Financial assistance and disaster relief – well, this is of course a disaster – but it’s true also in the case of diplomatic conflicts, which directly affect some crops. The aid, the assistance needs to be direct and quick and the emergency relief fund will help that, that’s highly relevant,” Perron said.

“In addition to that, I referred to an environmental partnership earlier. Of course, all farmers want to protect the environment, and it’s in our best interest to do so because we depend on the quality of soil and the climate, but we need to take collective responsibility. We can’t put all the responsibility … on farmers.”

CPC: “The review of the business risk management program was promised by this government and it’s still not done. So what we have in place right now is AgriRecovery. The provinces stepped forward. Yes, the federal government put forward a small amount of money, nowhere near to the disaster that our western colleagues are facing. It was again leadership from the provinces that finally was matched at the eleventh hour,” Epp said.

“Right now there are livestock starving, or livestock herds being dispersed. What about the Livestock Tax Deferral? Right now I’m aware of in Ontario 40,000 bales of hay waiting for some federal help on transportation to get to those needing that. Where is that leadership from the federal government?”

LPC: “These programs can be improved and take into consideration climate risk, and this is exactly the conversation that has already started with my provincial colleagues and with the industry. But in addition to that, we have to be proactive and we have to support our farmers to be more resilient to this new reality,” Bibeau said.

“This is why we are putting in place a $200 million program to give farmers incentives to adopt better management practices like rotational grazing, cover cropping, better management of nutrients. And we will triple the investment in to the cleantech programs, because it was so popular a few months ago, to reach almost half a billion dollars to help farmers afford energy-efficient equipment – for example for grain dryers, farm heating, or precision agriculture.”

NDP: “Absolutely, more help is going to be needed, not only for what’s happened this year but in future years. It’s very important for us to understand, this is now going to be a long-term trend and we are going to see more and more of these extreme weather events. If we don’t start changing the policy to seriously confront climate change, our farmers are going to continue to see these effects. We have to ask ourselves as a country: how many more future tax dollars are we prepared to spend to mitigate against the effects of climate change before we understand that the smart money is to make those critical investments now?” MacGregor said.

“I think one of the important things that we can do is to help farmers, give them that support in better soil management techniques, because we know that healthier soils are better able to withstand droughts and floods. It’s one of the reasons why I was proud to introduce a private members bill to try and establish a national soil conservation strategy. It’s going to require a lot of different things coming together but action is definitely needed because this problem is only going to get worse.”

For information on how and where to vote, visit elections.ca.