Bloc seeks bigger capital gains break on farm transfers

Aiming to clear the regulatory path for farm transfers, the Bloc Quebecois has included among its federal election platform planks a plan to boost the capital gains exemption on farm sales.

Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe re-announced the proposal Saturday at Metabetchouan-Lac-a-la-Croix, about 65 km west of Chicoutimi, after including it in the party’s full election platform, launched earlier last week.

The Bloc’s proposal is part of a five-point plan, budgeted at $100 million per year, to support young farmers and farm succession. Farm successions are still relatively “rare” even as the farming population ages, and in Quebec that’s translated to a loss of just over six farms each week for the past 10 years, the party said Saturday.

The exemption on farm sales would be raised to $1 million from the current $750,000 lifetime capital gains exemption for farmers, Duceppe said — but only if a farm is being sold to keep it active.

Transferring a farm should be more profitable than dismantling it, he said in Saturday’s release.

Also, the Bloc said, it must be possible for such a transfer to involve not only spouses, children or grandchildren, but also any immediate family member under age 40, including brothers, sisters, nieces and/or nephews.

The party’s plan also calls for a farm transfer savings plan, which would include federal contributions, to allow farmers to accumulate a tax-sheltered retirement fund. It also proposes changes to the federal Home Buyers’ Plan — which currently allows Canadians to withdraw up to $25,000 from an RRSP to buy or build a home — to allow for purchase of a farm.

Lastly, the plan calls for a block of federal funding to be transferred to the Quebec provincial government to support farm succession initiatives. Quebec’s ag ministry (MAPAQ) and la Financiere agricole du Quebec (FADQ) are already responsible for major ag income-related programming in the province anyway, the Bloc said.

Food sovereignty

The Bloc, in its full platform, cites food sovereignty and food security as its central ag-related planks. Among the proposals in the party’s full platform are:

  • restoring the federal AgriFlexibility initiative to its “original form” in which it would provide funding for provincial or regional programs, such as business risk management plans;
  • further regionalization of animal health zones in a manner that doesn’t needlessly penalize farmers outside the area of a livestock disease outbreak;
  • creating 1,000 new federal food inspection and veterinary positions to enforce food safety and animal health regulations;
  • lowering the maximum for GMO ingredients under which food processors can voluntarily declare a product to be “GMO-free,” down from the current five per cent allowed under federal regulations to the 0.9 per cent level now applied in the European Union;
  • fast-tracking the approval processes for pesticides and other ag inputs to allow for the acceptance of international equivalencies, as long as the products at least meet Canada’s (and Quebec’s) standards;
  • restoring federal funding for agricultural research and development; and
  • opposition to any bilateral or multilateral trade agreement that would put the fundamental principles of Canada’s supply management system for poultry, eggs and dairy products at risk.

A five-party agricultural debate will be held Monday (April 11) in Ottawa, with Richmond-Arthabaska MP Andre Bellavance, the Bloc’s agriculture critic, representing the party.

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