Federal agriculture minister and Compton-Stanstead MP Marie-Claude Bibeau says the federal budget, released April 7, has “great news” for the region’s farmers.
The budget contains measures to reinforce existing federal support programs for farmers, incentivize practices that are easier on the environment and reduce red tape for farmers who depend on temporary foreign workers.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a suite of support programs for farmers run jointly by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, was renewed, with “$1 billion invested in federal programs and $2 billion invested in joint federal and provincial programs,” according to Bibeau. The budget summary prepared by Finance Canada explains that the programs that fall under the partnership’s umbrella “provide $600 million to support agricultural innovation, sustainability, competitiveness, and market development. The framework also includes a comprehensive suite of business risk management programs to help Canadian farmers cope with volatile markets and disaster situations, with average spending of approximately $2 billion per year.”
Bibeau told BCN that funding for the Agricultural Clean Technology Program, first implemented in 2021 with an investment of $165.7 million, would triple, allowing more farmers to subsidize the purchase of environmentally friendly equipment, such as energy-efficient henhouse heaters or bird dryers, and no-till agricultural equipment.
She also touted several measures that are designed to improve temporary foreign worker (TFW) programs, which account for one of every three farmworkers in Quebec. According to the budget, $29.3 million over three years will be invested to reduce red tape by creating a “trusted employer” stream for employers who meet certain requirements; $48.2 million to create a new stream for workers in agriculture and fish processing; $64.6 million to improve application processing capacity and $14.6 million to scale up workplace inspections.
Martin Caron, a dairy and grain farmer in Louiseville in the Mauricie region, is the president of the Union des producteurs agricoles. He says the proposed improvements to the TFW programs and incentives for environmentally sound practices “respond to our requests.”
“In the context of the labour shortage, we need [temporary foreign workers] more than ever, and the measures in the budget will help us recruit, simplify the admin side and modernize the facilities where the workers are housed,” he said.
However, he pointed out that Canadian farmers still don’t have access to the same level of government support as their American and European counterparts. “Canada subsidizes my revenue at four cents on the dollar; in the United States, it’s eight cents, and in Europe, it’s more than that, and we are competing in the same markets,” he said. “Farm debt has more than doubled between 2009 and 2019, and if we want to be competitive we need additional support.”
“With the geopolitical uncertainty, the climate [crisis] and the pandemic, people are realizing that they want healthy, locally produced food, and investing in agriculture is investing in food,” he said.