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Provinces, Ottawa complete $1.3B ag framework

Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial ag ministers have officially completed their multilateral Growing Forward farm policy framework, committing $1.3 billion in cost-shared funding over the next five years.

Split 60/40 between Ottawa and the provinces, the $1.3 billion covers programming other than for farm business risk management (BRM), and is up $330 million from the non-BRM funding under the Chretien government’s previous five-year Agricultural Policy Framework (APF).

With its BRM component included, Growing Forward is “an integrated and comprehensive plan that focuses on key results in the areas of competitiveness and innovation, society’s priorities and proactive risk management,” the federal government said in a release Friday.

The program “will give farmers and others across the value chain the marketplace edge to capture business success, both domestically and in export markets,” the government said, adding that its programs will “enable greater adaptation and quicker response to changing consumer markets.”

The framework also commits to reduce the “regulatory burden” placed on farms by governments and provide “better tools for entrepreneurs to plan and evaluate their businesses” with an eye toward the ag sector’s long-term profitability.

The governments also said the framework will provide for the “enhancement of food safety systems and the continued implementation of on-farm environmental actions” and for further work with the ag sector toward setting up traceability and biosecurity systems.

BRM programs

Growing Forward’s “demand-driven” suite of BRM programs was launched in April, including the AgriStability, AgriInvest, AgriRecovery and AgriInsurance programs, replacing the previous Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program under the APF. The provinces and Ottawa previously agreed to extend non-BRM APF programming until April 1, 2009 at the latest.

The ag ministers, who met this week in Quebec City, agreed to undertake a strategic review of BRM programs over the coming year “to ensure programs meet evolving needs,” the federal government said.

It’s now up to the provinces and territories to complete and sign off on their bilateral agreements with Ottawa and officially launch new programming in each province and territory before April 1 next year. The federal government said Growing Forward features “flexibility” as a key element and will allow for
“programs that better respond to local priorities.”

Nova Scotia Agriculture Minister Brooke Taylor agreed in a separate release Friday, saying “Growing Forward is good for Nova Scotia farmers because it provides program flexibility to meet local needs.”

In another release, Alberta Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld said his department will now work with Ottawa to develop “programs specifically geared to meeting the needs of Alberta’s producers and agriculture businesses.

“Our work will include gathering industry feedback on the direction and details of proposed programs,” Groeneveld said.

Among other topics, the ag ministers also discussed developments in the livestock sector and the upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Geneva, which “most” provincial ministers said they would also attend, joining federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz.

The ministers were also updated on proposed revisions to their Agreement on Internal Trade. The federal government said they directed officials to finalize that text and report back by Oct. 31.

The agriculture ministers’ next scheduled meeting will be in July 2009 at Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

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