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Shannon Sereda, Senior Manager, Government Relations and Policy | Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions

Next agriculture policy framework

The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions have been actively involved in ongoing consultations related to the next agricultural policy framework which will replace the current Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) framework in March of 2023. Alberta Agricultural and Forestry held a roundtable with agricultural stakeholders in early July while farmers were asked for their input via a survey. Through participation in a Grain Growers of Canada working group, we aided in the development of recommendations to Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers in advance of September’s negotiations.

Recommendations centered around ensuring profitability and competitiveness at the farm gate and included specific recommendations related to:

  1. Increasing demand for grain products at home and abroad;
  2. Increasing production of crop varieties that are grown in Canada;
  3. Reducing risks related to production trade, transportation, environmental and public trust

These recommendations are underscored by the need for sustained and increased funding to the suite of program, to allow agriculture to continue to drive economic growth despite austerity measures caused by the pandemic. Under the CAP investment into the agricultural sector across Canada is roughly $4.6 billion, with $1.6 billion dedicated to business risk management programs and $3 billion combined toward strategic initiatives.

Business risk management review

A comprehensive review of the existing suite of business risk management programs was committed to under the current Canadian Agricultural Partnership. To date, there has been little change to the risk management offerings for producers with the exception of the removal of the reference margin limit on AgriStability. A comprehensive overview of how these changes may affect grains and oilseeds operations can be found on the Policy Initiatives page at albertawheatbarley.com.

The federal government has development three scenarios through the federal, provincial and territorial business risk management working group and in consultations with the National Program Advisory Committee (NPAC) that is composed of producers across all regions of Canada. The NPAC has not endorsed any singular model and broader industry consultations have yet to take place. In Alberta, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry proposed a model to improve the responsiveness, predictability, timeliness, equity and simplification of AgriStablity through a gross margin insurance product. Details have yet to be publicly disclosed. The next meeting of the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Agricultural Ministers, is slated for mid-November at which time a statement on agreed priorities for the next agricultural policy framework should be released. The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions will be looking to host a farmer focus group in November 2021, during AgriTrade in Red Deer, Alberta to get to get further input from farmers on the proposed changes and suggestions to improve the program suite, particularly AgriStability given the significant challenges farmers faced with drought and heat during the 2021 growing season. Producers interested in participating in a focus group on this subject should contact Shannon Sereda, senior manager, government relations and policy at ssereda@albertawheatbarley.com or by phone at 403-219-6263.

Federal election

On August 15, 2021 parliament was dissolved at the request of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, launching the 36-day federal election campaign. With election results unknown at the time of writing (September 10, 2021), the commissions analyzed the pre-election discussions on Canadian agriculture.

From a crop perspective, all of the main party platforms lacked strength and focus on the grain sector. Despite that the agriculture and agri-food industries were acknowledged as key drivers of Canada’s post-pandemic economic recovery through the goal to increase agriculture and agri-food exports to $75 billion by 2025, – agriculture, disappointedly, factored in little to the pre-election conversations. Meaningful dialogue surrounding agriculture was also limited during the Canadian Federation of Agriculture sponsored debate held on September 9, 2021. Agriculture leaders of the core parties discussed eight priority areas including business risk management, climate policy, research and innovation, and value-added processing, amongst others. While there were few surprises, themes emerged on each parties’ proposed approach to agriculture. Conservative candidate, Dave Epp emphasized a less Ottawa-directed approach to designing policies and programs, and the need to work directly with farmers. Liberal candidate, Marie-Claude Bibeau defended investments in research and business risk management. She also committed to increase funding to farmers for their practices aimed at reaching climate change goals. New Democratic Party candidate, Alistair MacGregor emphasized support to build resiliency in the sector.

Although agriculture was lacking in pre-election dialogue, the Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions, through our partners in Team Alberta and Grain Growers of Canada, strive to put agriculture at the forefront of the economy as parliament gets back to business.

Responsible Grain Code of Practice

The development of the Responsible Grain Code of Practice experienced some setbacks during the initial round of consultations. The Alberta Wheat and Barley Commissions participated in these consultations through a joint, guided feedback session with participation from directors, delegates and representatives of our organizations. In light of feedback received by stakeholders during that period, the Responsible Grain Code of Practice committees agreed to lengthen the consultation period and take additional steps toward the code development. Analysis of the 2020-21 consultation feedback took place during June of 2021 and were posted at responsiblegrain.ca. A policy analysis has been undertaken at the request of industry stakeholders to guide the next steps of code development. At the time of writing (August 31, 2021) this analysis is expected to be complete and include decisions on next steps by September 30, 2021. If accepted, the development of a second version of the code, to be developed in conjunction with an expanded producer panel and commodity organizations, is expected to be completed in November 2021. This will be followed by public consultations in December 2021 to February 2022, with analysis and next steps to be presented in March of 2022. The commissions will be actively involved at all stages of the new timeline. If you have questions or concerns please reach out to the Alberta farmer representative on the Code Development Committee, and director with the Alberta Wheat Commission, Jason Lenz at Jlenz@albertawheat.com.

"To date, there has been little change to the risk management offerings for producers with the exception of the removal of the reference margin limit on AgriStability.”