LETTER FROM ONTARIO
Ontario farmers to tackle some dramatic proposals on the future of Canadian agriculture

Farm & Countryside Commentary by Elbert van Donkersgoed

Editor's NOTE

Elbert van Donkersgoed is the Strategic Policy Advisor of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario, Canada. CFFO is supported by 4,500 family farmers across the province of Ontario.

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Posted March 9, 2006: Last year’s bumper crop of major reports on fixing Canadian agriculture are coming under close scrutiny by the members and friends of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. CFFO’s 2006 seminar series will ask if the solutions proposed by the four reports clash or converge. Combined, there is a lot of advice in the four reports but are they offering solutions that family farmers appreciate? The seminar series will focus on two of the themes in the reports:

  1. The solutions to farmers’ lack of clout in the marketplace;
  2. The solutions proposed for the farm gate financial crisis.

CFFO has posted a summary of the solutions proposed by each of the four reports on its website: www.christianfarmers.org. The four reports are:

  • The Honourable Wayne Easter, Parliamentary Secretary to the former Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in the Liberal government produced “Empowering Canadian Farmers in the Marketplace” last July.
  • The National Farmers Union wrote “The Farm Crisis: Its Causes and Solutions,” also last July.
  • The Agriculture Institute of Canada commissioned a discussion paper, “Big Farms, Small Farms: Strategies in Sustainable Agriculture to fit All Sizes,” last September.
  • The Canadian Federation of Agriculture wrote “Agricultural Policy Framework II: A Canadian Farm Bill” last November.

The variety of proposed solutions is quite dramatic. Proposals for fixing the farm gate financial crisis include the following:

  • Enhance returns from the marketplace by organizing international meetings of farm ministers and consulting farmers.
  • Create distinct agricultural programs for small and large farms.
  • Give smaller farmers preferential access to processors.
  • Pay short-term incentives to farmers who idle land to better match supply to demand for grain
  • Invest in alternative uses for agricultural land, like biomass for fuel production.
  • Give farmers incentives for marketing livestock at lower weights.
  • Make safety nets and risk management programs affordable, predictable, responsiveness and equitable across the country.
  • Guarantee that at least 95% of farmers recover their full costs of production.
  • Put a consumer levy on food to fund the adoption of sustainable practices.
  • Target farm aid programs to small- and medium-scale producers.
  • Identify costs, such as inspection fees, that governments can pay for entirely.
  • When farmers are required to take steps, like traceability, for the benefit of the public good, the public should pay.
  • Implement a payment system for environmental goods and services.
  • Expand agricultural production into processing and distribution.
  • Encourage young farmers with incentives.

Which of these solutions will contribute the most to solving the farm gate financial crisis? That will be the underlying question of the CFFO seminar series.

Six sessions, starting March 8, are planned. Visit the CFFO website for details or call for the schedule: 519-837-1620. Join us as we explore the strengths and weaknesses of these solutions and identify the best.

For a complete list of events and summaries of the reports, please visit: www.christianfarmers.org

To register send email to cffomail@christianfarmers.org or call 519-837-1620. There is a registration fee to cover the cost of lunch and refreshments.

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