An Independent Agri-Food Policy Note released September 8 by Agri-Food Economic Systems challenges governments and the agri-food sector to go broader and deeper in discussions on the successor to Growing Forward II, the current federal-provincial-territorial agreement on agri-food policy. The Growing Forward II agreement expires in 2018.
“The Calgary Statement summarizes the current state of federal-provincial-territorial discussions on agri-food policy,” said Bob Seguin, Agri-Food Economic Systems Associate and co-author of the policy note. “But we must anticipate some sobering challenges that will confront Canadian agri-food and go further. This dialogue is an opportunity to build on past agreements in getting to a bolder agreement on policy- not just tinkering with existing programs and spending.”
The policy note paints the picture of an agri-food sector with many disruptive issues and uncertainties on the horizon, and new stakeholders with different interests than the established agri-food value chain. Among these, demographic trends in farms and food processing will pressure program design, marked uncertainties characterize markets and trade, and agriculture will be impacted by, and can be a solutions provider for, climate change mitigation commitments.
“When federal and provincial governments are already underway with carbon tax or cap and trade initiatives, we cannot talk blithely about beneficial management practices and environmental farm plans,” says Douglas Hedley, Agri-Food Economic Systems Associate and co-author of the policy note. “It will become increasingly difficult to avoid the reality of differential demands for business risk management programming. Moreover, the new policy framework will need to accommodate and prepare for new trade agreements, with an acknowledgment that these may not roll out exactly as anticipated, and that other measures may be required to stimulate growth.”
“The risk is that the dialogue and ultimate agreement will be both too small in ambition and too safe in its scope,” says Al Mussell, Agri-Food Economic Systems Research Lead and co-author of the policy note. “Another five years of modest change in policy and programming is unlikely to provide a stable base for industry growth; there are just too many big changes coming at us.”
The Independent Agri-Food Policy Note can be accessed at www.agrifoodecon.ca Agri-Food Economic Systems Inc. is an independent economic research organization dedicated to agriculture and food located in Guelph, Ontario.