Cabinet must discuss agriculture concerns
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 20, 2003
(OTTAWA) - In the next few days members of the federal cabinet will gather for a retreat. The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) wants to ensure that agriculture issues are on the agenda of that meeting. Canadian farmers have serious concerns that need to be addressed.
"On June 20, 2002, the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister together made a strong commitment to agriculture. They had a vision for moving the industry beyond crisis management," said Bob Friesen, CFA President. "We strongly support that vision. But the devil is in the details, and the devil is threatening to undermine the vision. The current program design proposal offers Canadian producers less protection at a higher cost."
The March 31 deadline for the creation of new business risk management programs under the Agricultural Policy Framework (APF) is fast approaching. Canadian farmers are experiencing growing concern with the progress of new program development. Current program proposals could well result in a decrease of money available to farmers facing a crisis, will not protect producers from long-term price downturns, and will increase the vulnerability of Canadian programs to foreign trade challenges. Rather than meeting the announcement's objective of moving the industry beyond crisis management, these proposals will exacerbate the situation.
Of prime importance is the issue of the constraints on specific program parameters. According to Minister Vanclief these constraints are imposed by the Memorandum to Cabinet presented by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada last spring.
"While we recognize the importance of abiding by the spirit of the agreement that provided the funding for the APF, the CFA believes Cabinet would be willing to review the specific parameters that are unacceptable to producers, given that producer concerns center around the impact those parameters would have on the program's ability to stabilize the industry, and on the serious trade implications of the program," said Friesen.
CFA has been actively involved in consultations on program development. Along with the other members of the National Safety Nets Advisory Committee, CFA has offered well-developed proposals and solutions for programs that meet producers' needs. These suggestions have apparently gone unheeded.
"We feel that business risk management is an essential component of the APF. We need to find realistic solutions to the concerns we have stated. The industry remains committed to working with the government to make the necessary changes to ensure a successful outcome to the APF negotiations," said Friesen. "We believe there is still potential to come up with a suite of programs that will meet the needs of the industry. But we need to act quickly, and we need to act together."
Please see the attached background paper listing specific industry concerns with current business risk management program proposals.
Founded in 1935 to provide Canada's farmers with a single voice in Ottawa, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture is the country's largest farmers' organization. Its members include provincial general farm organizations as well as national and inter-provincial commodity organizations from every province. Through its members, CFA represents over 200,000 Canadian farmers and farm families.
Kieran Green, CFA Communications Coordinator, (613) 236-3633, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob Friesen, CFA President, (204) 724-0824 (cell)
Brigid Rivoire, CFA Executive Director, (613) 236-3633 / (613) 715-3113 (cell)