This week’s guest commentary comes from Paul Wettlaufer, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
There were a few nods to Canadian agriculture in the recent federal budget. The OFA is encouraged to see two of our three key priority areas warranted mention. The OFA is looking for federal funding for risk management tools, a rebuild of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s research program and research stations, and rural municipal infrastructure. Business Risk Management is absent from the budget announcement.
Possible investment in Canadian agricultural research was mentioned in the budget. Starting in 2016-2017, the federal government has committed to directing $10 million per year to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) for collaborative projects between companies and academic researchers targeting natural resources, energy, advanced manufacturing, environment and agriculture. The OFA will be looking for more details to assess the potential impact of this announcement to agriculture.
The federal government acknowledged the importance of rural communities to support Canada 150 activities. The OFA had hoped there would be funding to support natural gas extension into rural Ontario and the maintenance of rural roads and bridges. Unfortunately the government didn’t make any commitments to rural infrastructure support. Canada 150 activity investments have the potential to support rural Ontario communities with investments in local facilities. The budget cited the government’s economic action plan to support Canada 150 activities by funding the renovation, expansion and improvement of existing community infrastructure across the country.
The government also announced changes in taxation that could save Canadian farmers $50 million over the next five years in capital gains taxes. This immediate increase to the lifetime capital gains exemption will see an increase from $800,000 to $1 million, and is expected to assist those making farm transfers or selling/acquiring farm assets.
Agriculture was mentioned in the budget but OFA is disappointed an investment in risk management tools was left out. With so many factors affecting farm businesses that farmers can’t manage – like weather, market prices and fluctuating currencies – it’s never been more important to provide farmers with financial management tools to ensure Canadian farms can be sustainable. Bankable risk management tools, a solid agricultural research platform and rural infrastructure investment will be what Ontario farmers look for in the party election platforms.
The OFA directly advocates on behalf of Ontario farmers and we address issues and concerns at a federal level when federal decisions impact provincial policies.