submitted by Rachelle Kerr,
Ontario Federation of Agriculture
This week’s federal budget contained several good news announcements for Ontario farmers dealing with rising costs and other challenges impacting the competitiveness of the agriculture sector.
The government’s agri-food focused budget items included new funding for interest-free cash advances for farmers; a top up of the On-Farm Climate Action Fund for farmers in Eastern Canada; reduced escalator tax increases on wines, craft beer and ciders, and spirits; support for Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) preparedness; and the establishment of a Dairy Innovation and Investment Fund.
“We appreciate the federal government’s response to the needs of the agri-food sector by providing funding in key areas that support farming and food production in Canada,” says OFA President Peggy Brekveld. “Agriculture is a cornerstone of our federal economy and government support of our sector will help our continued contributions to jobs and growth, as well as expand Canada’s global reputation as a breadbasket to the world.”
Two budget items in particular were among the recommendations the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) and others made to the federal government during the pre-budget consultation process earlier this winter: improvements to the Advance Payment Program (APP), a federal loan guarantee program that gives farmers access to low-interest cash advances, and financial compensation for farmers negatively impacted by federal tariffs on fertilizer imports from Russia.
The government announced an increase to the interest-free limit for loans under the APP from $250,000 to $350,000 for the 2023 program year. It had previously been capped at $100,000 and was temporarily raised last summer to $250,000 for the 2022 and 2023 program years.
“This is a particularly welcome announcement by the government as spring planting season is around the corner and farmers continue to face pressure from rising interest rates and ongoing increases in the cost of fuel, fertilizer and other farm inputs,” says Brekveld.
In response to calls from OFA and other farm organizations to return the estimated $34.1 million in tariff monies already collected directly back to farmers, the government announced it will add $34.1 million to its On-Farm Climate Action Fund for fertilizer-related projects in Eastern Canada.
“We’ve been clear since day one that our preferred solution has always been the direct return of tariff dollars to farmers, and this announcement does make this money available to primary agriculture through a funding program with on-farm benefits, which is an alternative we had put forward in our dialogue with government on this issue,” adds Brekveld.
The budget also provides funding for a new national Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccine bank and development of FMD response plans, a ten-year investment to support new dairy product innovation, and a temporary reduction in the automatic annual increase of the escalator tax on wine, craft beers and ciders, and spirits to two per cent from the planned 6.3 percent increase.
The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) is the largest general farm organization in Ontario, representing 38,000 farm families across the province and serving as the leading advocate and strongest voice of Ontario’s farmers. As a dynamic farmer-led organization based in Guelph, the OFA represents and champions the interests of Ontario farmers through government relations, farm policy recommendations, research, lobby efforts, community representation, media relations and more.