Evidence of meeting #6 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 programs.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Chris Forbes  Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Christine Walker  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food
Colleen Barnes  Vice-President, Policy and Programs, Canadian Food Inspection Agency

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

You have 12 seconds.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

There's something I want to put on your radar.

We've seen the report from officials that the administration costs for AgriStability are at 24% or $70 million of the budget. I know that when we were in government, we kept it around 5% to 9%.

Is there a reason we've seen such a huge increase in the administration cost for AgriStability? Are you able to give us numbers on how that has changed over the last few years?

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Barlow.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Chris, you can submit it later if you want.

5:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Yes, we can submit it. I'll come back to that later.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Mr. Ellis for five minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

I'll just say that those administrative costs have been fairly stable going back to at least 2013 or earlier. AgriStability is the most expensive program to run, as you said, at around 23% or 24%. It's something in that neighbourhood, depending on the year.

That is high, or it seems high at the surface. It's a very tailored program, which I think is the challenge because it's very producer specific. It's administered largely by our provincial colleagues, so we have to work with them to figure out if there are ways that you could simplify the administration to bring the costs down. I'm happy to share the numbers, but it has been fairly stable for close to 10 years, in terms of the level.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Great. Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

We talked earlier about farm income, and I know that you probably do have some data on farm income. I don't think you probably have current data, over the last two years, but from the data that you've been keeping, I wonder if farm income, in general, has been up or down.

5:05 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Generally, I would say that.... Maybe the simple way to put it is that I think we had a very good run of six or seven years of good, strong increases in farm income across the country. You're still seeing in our export numbers overall, I would say, some strong revenue-side sales increases.

However, what we saw in 2018-19 definitely was, on the expense side, higher expenses driving up costs and bringing farm incomes back to the levels that they were four or five years earlier.

March 12th, 2020 / 5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Okay.

You talked earlier about the local food infrastructure fund, and I guess the first round of that has already been announced. Is that funding going to be year-round?

My second question concerns the second round of funding coming up. Could you explain the difference between the second round and the first round of funding?

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Yes.

Do you want to talk a bit about that, Christine?

5:10 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management Branch, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Christine Walker

The first round of funding was about $4 million. Just to let you know, at this point we've already received 240 applications, projects representing pretty much the whole fund at this point. The fund will be replenished next year.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

I am just going to say that the first round was generally smaller projects. It was focused on smaller projects. The second round, which we will launch in the coming weeks and months, will also have a component for larger projects that might bring together groups in a community or groups across communities to build more of a food system in a region.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Would you know the amounts or the upper limits of that program for the second round?

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

That will come out in due time, I think.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Okay.

We've been talking about processing capacity and slaughterhouse closures. I'm wondering if there is any money or any thoughts of money for slaughterhouses for innovation to get their processes maybe faster, or to, you know....

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

Again, we have programming, agri-competitiveness at the federal level, that certainly is there for slaughterhouses, but also for all processors to work on equipment and technology that can be there to reduce costs or make their processes more environmentally sustainable.

Provinces also have programming under the various provincial programs under the Canadian agricultural partnership that can help with that.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Okay.

You mentioned the Canadian agricultural partnership. That is split with the provinces. It's a 60-40 split, I take it.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

We're adding money to that. Is the province picking up the difference? Why are we adding money to the fund?

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

In the supplementary estimates?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Yes.

5:10 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Chris Forbes

That would be the federal share of money, the extra $55 million that's there. By and large, most of that money is for provincial programming, and that would represent our 60% share of the programming. Those dollars would largely be matched by the province, or 40% to 60%.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Neil Ellis Liberal Bay of Quinte, ON

Okay.

This is my last question. There is revenue from the sale of land and property transfers. I think the amount was around $320,000. Can you explain that? Are we selling property? What is that line?