The federal government has a new way of delivering certain programs and services to agricultural producers. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) took effect on April 1. It is a $3-billion, five-year effort by the government to help the agricultural sector grow its trade, advance innovation, and to expand confidence and diversity in the food system. CAP is a collaborative initiative that was developed over the past five years in conjunction with provincial departments of agriculture and is the newest plan under the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF). CAP replaces the previous APF plan, Growing Forward II.
$1 billion of the CAP funding goes to federal programs, and the other $2 billion is for cost-shared programs delivered by the provinces. Under CAP, funding has been increased for farmers to continue to have access to what the federal government calls a “robust” array of business risk management (BRM) programs. Some of those are delivered on behalf of the government by organizations like the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association (OSCIA). Colleen Acres, who farms near Osgoode, is the OSCIA Regional Program Lead for all eastern Ontario counties. She said that farmers have to complete a series of workshops in order to be eligible for some sources of BRM funding under CAP. Acres added that farmers tend to like merit-based programs that allow them to secure funding for their initiatives where the money is distributed based on the need and qualifications applicants have demonstrated. Acres said there are three workshops she delivers for eastern Ontario farmers through OSCIA. They are; how to develop an Environmental Farm Plan (EFP), Growing Your Farm Profit, which focuses on the business administration, human resources, marketing, and succession planning aspects of farming, and a biosecurity workshop for both livestock and crop farmers.
Local representatives of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), and its affiliates, the Prescott, Russell, and Glengarry Federations of Agriculture were reluctant to comment on CAP and said they needed more time to become familiar with the initiative. However, Emery Huszka, the President of the Ontario division of the National Farmers Union (NFU) said his organization had previous concerns with the former Growing Forward programs because they did not provide enough access to farmers with smaller operations. “How do we get government to provide data on the scale of operators accessing this money?,” asked Huszka, expressing how he wants to know the amount of smaller farm operators who have benefitted from previous APF initiatives like Growing Forward, and how many will benefit from funding under CAP. Huszka said that CAP eligibility often requires skill sets that smaller producers have less ability to easily obtain due to financial and human resources limitations. He is concerned that initiatives like CAP could make “larger operators become even larger.”
Huszka also noted that under CAP, funding has been increased to allow food processing companies to participate. He believes the reason for that is because the federal government now considers agriculture and agri-food a major source of economic growth, trade, and a way of boosting Canada’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), especially since other industries such as manufacturing have declined in recent years.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is working out bilateral agreements with provincial agriculture departments on CAP program and service delivery. Agreements have already been reached with Ontario and Quebec. More information on the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, the provincial agreements, and application forms is available at; http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/about-us/key-departmental-initiatives/canadian-agricultural-partnership/