The Canadian Federation of Agriculture has endorsed the contents of Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act, meaning Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has the backing of most farm groups for the legislation.
CFA had already endorsed the plant breeders’ rights portion of the bill but reserved judgment on the rest until it had time to review changes to the advance payment program provisions. Its conclusion is that they too will benefit farmers.
CFA president Ron Bonnett said the legislation “takes on several issues that will increase access to important programs for farmers and will result in cost savings for administrators and farms.” He added that the proposals in the legislation show the government has been listening to farm groups.
The backing of most farm groups should speed up the bill’s passage through Parliament in 2014. Grain Growers of Canada and the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance have thrown their support behind it.
Bonnett added that the proposed changes to the Advance Payments Program, under which farmers can borrow against the value of unsold crops, “should reduce red tape by limiting the administrative burden of using the program year after year.”
The government has promised additional consultations during the next few weeks on the advance payments changes, which will add livestock and additional crops and permit multi-year agreements, Bonnett said. “CFA and other producer groups will be consulting closely with Agriculture Canada to ensure these changes best meet the needs of producers and do not impose undue additional costs or burden on producers,” Bonnett said.
CFA will be seeking an increase in maximum payments available through the program “to address the continued inflation of farm expenses, which was not addressed in this bill,” Bonnett said.
Another change will allow farmers to reschedule payments so they are not forced to sell product “at inopportune times just to meet repayment requirements,” Bonnett noted.
As well, farmers who hold outside jobs to support their farm will be eligible to apply for advance payments on their production, which will benefit many startup and expanding operations, he added.
Plant breeders’ rights (PBR) will allow researchers to collect royalties on new varieties they develop to help finance additional research. It will bring Canada in line with an international convention established in 1991.
The CFA said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, which will administer the PBRs, needs to discuss any proposals to control farmer-saved seeds before bringing them in “or the balance in the act may be lost.” It wants the agency to ensure seed prices remain reasonable and protect farmers from claims of patent infringement for “the natural or accidental spreading of patented plant genetic material, or the insemination of an animal by an animal with patent protection.”