Evidence of meeting #5 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was agristability.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chris van den Heuvel  Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Mathieu Lipari  Program Manager, Farm Management Canada
Candace Roberts  Manager, Catalyst LLP
Scott Ross  Assistant Executive Director, Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Patty Rosher  General Manager, Keystone Agricultural Producers
Katie Ward  President, National Farmers Union
Martin Caron  First Vice-President, Union des producteurs agricoles
David Tougas  Coordinator, Business Economics, Union des producteurs agricoles

4 p.m.

Program Manager, Farm Management Canada

Mathieu Lipari

Do you mean about the AgriStability program?

4 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Yes.

4 p.m.

Program Manager, Farm Management Canada

4 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Sorry. I just switched gears.

4 p.m.

Program Manager, Farm Management Canada

Mathieu Lipari

I'm afraid I can't really answer that question, because I don't deal specifically with the other provinces in that respect. We do have a provincial committee that deals with all the PT members from across Canada. As to whether the funding model is working, we haven't heard any negative comments on that point.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Tim Louis Liberal Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Okay. I appreciate that.

Ms. Roberts, you're an accountant and you're on the ground, so you're in a perfect position to comment on some of the simple solutions that might be helpful as far as paperwork is concerned and how we can streamline that process. Is there some sort of concrete information that would help?

4 p.m.

Manager, Catalyst LLP

Candace Roberts

We need to work—

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

We're actually out of time. Maybe we can pick it up with another question.

4 p.m.

A voice

It's an important question.

4 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

It's an important question for sure.

Mr. Perron, you have the floor for six minutes.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon to all the witnesses. Thank you very much for making yourselves available.

I am going to echo Mr. Louis' comment and say that it's always a good idea to make contacts and get information.

I will make my colleague happy and pick up his question again, because I am very interested in it.

Ms. Roberts, you are an accountant. You talked about the administrative burden, the paperwork. You also said that help is needed quickly. Have you identified any real changes we could make to the risk management programs to make things better?

4 p.m.

Manager, Catalyst LLP

Candace Roberts

Yes. In my opinion, lots of things can be done to improve the program. First of all, there's lots and lots of paperwork. We need to make the paperwork similar to and work more in conjunction with the income tax. Also, we need to simplify the calculations. We need to have the forms spitting out calculations for the producers instantly rather than waiting for them to be processed, which can take months.

In my experience and from what I've seen, because of the time delay in the program, farmers can be back in the good years by the time the payout ever happens. They're not getting the money when they need it and when they're going through the rough times. We need to work on speeding up this process so that when disaster happens—for instance, this fall, when people couldn't get product to market because of the rail strike and were having cash flow issues—they're able to get the money. We need programs that get money to the producers right away to help sustain their farming operations.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you for making specific recommendations.

To complement the insurance programs, do you think it would be appropriate to create a government emergency support fund that would be accessible at all times to provide ad hoc assistance to farmers? Among other things, this fund could be used to mitigate the effects of diplomatic tensions or with events like the rail crisis. How do you feel about that?

4:05 p.m.

Manager, Catalyst LLP

Candace Roberts

I agree. It would definitely complement. It would get money in the hands of producers when they were going through tough times or there were crises of weather, trade, getting products to market and so on. It would definitely supplement the other programs.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you very much.

Mr. van den Heuvel, you spoke at length about restoring the coverage threshold to 85%. Will the 85% threshold truly meet the needs? Basically, the recommendation comes because you want to restore the program to what it was prior to 2014. Is that correct? If not, is it based on studies you have done on the program's efficiency? Is it either of those two reasons?

4:05 p.m.

Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Chris van den Heuvel

Yes, undoubtedly. The return to 85% is what we would consider a short- to mid-term mitigation step in ensuring that our suite of programs is making sense. Is it the final answer of what the BRM suite is going to look like? We're not sure. However, as Ms. Roberts alluded to before, farmers need support now. They need it to be timely. They need the help now. That's one way that we foresee getting help to the farmers who need it immediately as we go about the longer-term action of looking at the BRM suite and figuring out what it means in the next framework and in the frameworks going forward.

Again, I don't know if it's going to be the final answer, but it would certainly be a huge help to producers who are facing shortfalls. We have grain farmers facing a 10,000-railcar delivery backlog now because of rail strikes and blockades and recent issues. Those farmers do not get paid until that product gets to market. We need programs in place that are timely, that are effective, and that help meet their needs.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Perron Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Thank you.

I know that you would like to create a permanent working group to analyze the repercussions, which we will look at in the study. Did you feel that the government was open to this? When you were consulted, did you make any recommendations to the government? Do you feel that it would be possible?

4:05 p.m.

Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Chris van den Heuvel

Yes, it is definitely possible. We've asked in the past for some more detail.

For example, I sit on the national program advisory committee, which is a government-led committee reporting back to industry on the BRM programming, and we've asked for an increased level of access to data around that table. It has been frustrating. The process has been slow. The turnaround has been slow, and a lot of times when we ask for data, we get some, but we don't get quite what we need.

It just goes to the point that in order for us to understand how we can develop a program to move forward, we need to have access to that underlying data so we can make informed decisions. That's really what it's all about: industry and government working together to be able to make informed decisions. When all of that information is being held on one side of the table, it makes it very difficult from our perspective.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. van den Heuvel.

Monsieur Perron, thank you.

Mr. MacGregor, you have six minutes.

March 10th, 2020 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you, Chair; and thank you to the witnesses.

Mr. van den Heuvel, I really appreciated your testimony and I do like it that you came prepared with a series of recommendations.

Can you please clarify what your second recommendation was? I was also writing my notes and I trailed off there.

4:10 p.m.

Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Chris van den Heuvel

That was the prioritization on production insurance for livestock and horticultural crops.

Currently, the insurance programs that are in place don't cover the whole suite of products that we as an industry grow and produce, so we would like to see that enhanced to the point where livestock and other horticultural products are covered. Right now, they are not.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you.

My next focus is specifically on climate change and risk management.

We know that even if we were to stop pumping carbon into the atmosphere now, we've still set off a ball that's rolling. Therefore, the adverse weather effects are going to keep coming our way. We know from testimony at this committee that farmers are the first ones to say that they're on the front lines of this.

When you're talking about business risk management, as Mr. Lipari said, it can be quite a comprehensive approach. I'm interested in whether the CFA has any comments or recommendations on ways we can proactively manage risk in the face of climate change. Are there ways that the federal government can help farmers adapt to climate change? Do we need to put more money into studying different farming techniques or better crops that can manage these adverse weather effects? Do you have any comments on that and whether that might be an acceptable form of risk management as well?

4:10 p.m.

Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Chris van den Heuvel

I would agree, for sure, that any R and D that goes into those types of issues that help us move forward in these increasingly changing times would certainly be welcome.

With regard to recognition of what farmers and the agricultural industry do from a climate change perspective, there is a lot of information out there right now that shows that the agricultural industry is in fact a carbon sink for that. Recognition for the work that we do and have been doing in the past, such as different tillage methods, and so on and so forth, would be key.

I guess payment for ecological goods and services is how we would refer to that. It's definitely one way to help mitigate our risk moving forward, so we would certainly appreciate any movement in that area.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

You also mentioned how the private sector is not stepping up with meaningful alternatives. Are they afraid to venture into it because they see too much risk? Do you know why that is?

4:10 p.m.

Second Vice-President, Canadian Federation of Agriculture

Chris van den Heuvel

That's a good question.

Scott, do you want to respond?