A new funding agreement between B.C. and Ottawa promises to put more money into the pockets of farmers and other food producers.
The Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership will make about $470 million through various programs available starting April 1 over five years. The Ministry of Agriculture said the final amount could rise or fall depending on external factors such as weather and market conditions.
The agreement replaces the current, but expiring, Canadian Agricultural Partnership agreement between Ottawa and the provinces. Its total value is $3.5-billion.
B.C.’s agriculture minister, Pam Alexis, said in a statement Wednesday (March 15) that the partnership support the government’s focus on food security for all while investing significantly in farmers, producers and processors.
“Agriculture is a key economic driver in B.C. and through this agreement we will be able to create new opportunities that make the sector even stronger while also supporting shared priorities such as Indigenous reconciliation, reducing emissions and mitigating the impacts of climate change, as well as more innovative and sustainable food production.”
Not all of the money available to B.C. farmers will come directly from Ottawa, with 40 per cent coming from provincial coffers.
Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said the new agreement offers a range of programs that will allow Canadian producers and processors to remain competitive and profitable while reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the sector.
While the agreement won’t come into effect for several weeks, farmers and other food producers can already start applying for support.
Paul Pryce, director of policy for the BC Agriculture Council, said the partnership offers many good funding opportunities for farmers and ranchers to improve production while protecting the environment better. “We see the partnership as a good initiative,” Pryce said. But the program could also be easier to access, he added.
“There are lots of programs out there, but sometimes it is very difficult for farmers and ranchers to find the information, to find the programs, what is eligible, when to apply and so on,” Pryce said. “A bit of feedback, we had back to government, whether that is provincial or federal was, ‘can we have a single window, one website, one resource that farmers and ranchers can go to and figure out the information,’” he added.
While BCAC is still reviewing details, Pryce predicts that the agreement will make a difference, even if some of the money comes out of the pockets of farmers themselves and sometimes end up in programs, which may have little obvious connection to farming.
“The programs that make up most of the (agreement) are ones that effective,” he said. “There are areas of improvement. But some programs (like business risk management) are necessary.”
Wednesday’s funding announcement is the second major announcement concerning agriculture in B.C. Last week, the provincial government announced $200 million for food security measures.
Agriculture and agri-food production accounts for nearly $135 billion in GDP more than than 2 million jobs (1 in 9 jobs) in Canada. Exports of agriculture, agri-food, fish and seafood products grew to $92.7 billion in 2022 compared to $82.4 billion in 2021.