FNA calls farm profitability key to national food policy

The following news release is being sent to media outlets and Members of Parliament April 15, 2017

SASKATOON — Farmers of North America (FNA) in a written release welcomed the federal government’s decision to extend consultations on the proposed National Food Policy, noting however that farmers are in harvest, with little opportunity to participate.

A National Food Policy

  1. Must recognize farm profitability as a necessary precondition for success
  2. Address lack of competitive markets for farm inputs, directly target anti-competitive practices
  3. Demand efficiency and transparency in regulatory processes, insist all relevant evidence be part of decision-making, that repeating work conducted in credible jurisdictions end
  4. Allocate costs for government mandates to the government
  5. Compensate farmers for contributions to the policy’s goals including environmental stewardship
  6. Create a new aggressive posture for Canadian trade relations, ensuring that Canadian farmers are championed when trading partners are not playing by the rules.

Noting that much of the food policy discussion addresses issues other than farm profitability, FNA supports any consensus positions of general farm organizations, including CFA, commodity groups and livestock associations.

However, FNA also insists that a National Food Policy cannot be successful if it does not include actions or plans to maximize farm profitability.

“The themes of the current consultation are fine, quite general and strongly weighted toward non-economic questions,” said Bob Friesen, Vice President Government Affairs.

Meanwhile the federal government announced a new Agriculture Policy Framework, distinct from the food policy, that does address some economic considerations. FNA welcomes the commitment to continue to develop private sector solutions for better risk management for farmers, recognizing the contribution to the FNA-led MarketPower Assurance Program.

“Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is already actively supporting risk management initiatives and that is to be commended,” FNA President James Mann said.

FNA remains concerned about a set of “mission-critical “policy areas that are not included in the national food policy consultation nor in the new APF.  FNA believes that Maximizing Farm Profitability must be a key focus of any national food policy, and be explicitly noted as a requisite driver for the other elements of the policy to have any hope of real success.

“Note we are not talking about government subsidies or handouts of any kind, we are talking about private sector profitability,” Mann said.

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Attachment: Farmers of North America Concerns re National Food Policy

FNA insists that a successful National Food Policy means ensuring farmers experience competitive markets for their input costs not just predatory markets on both ends of the supply chain.

A Food Policy may not be the best place to tackle oligarchic markets but it is necessary that it recognizes anti-competitive conditions damage Canada‘s ability to achieve the goals of the Policy. It should also include a mechanism or statement of intent to address competitive issues going forward.

Addressed directly in the Food Policy or a process launched as an objective of that policy, success means creating enforceable competition laws that punish proof of anti-competitive behaviour rather than requiring proof of harm. With one of the weakest competition law systems, the analogy would be making attempted murder legal, so long as you don’t succeed in killing the victim.

The recent decision allowing a crop protection oligarchy is testament to how weak Canada’s system remains.

Some elements of the Food Policy consultation suggest a risk of worsening an already-unacceptable regulatory environment.

A policy that recognizes farm profitability is foundational to achieving the goals of sustainability, affordability, access, health and environmental benefits, and so on, will also recognize that regulatory powers must be used sensibly, not to build bureaucratic empires.

Declaring a decision is “evidence-based” totally disregards the reality that there are human beings deciding what evidence to consider and what evidence to ignore, what processes satisfy them and what processes they find inconvenient.

We cannot pretend the phrase “evidence-based” is neutral when excellent evidence from other jurisdictions is excluded, costing our farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary costs.

A successful, sustainable National Food Policy also means compensating farmers for their substantial contributions to environmental security including biodiversity, carbon sequestration, erosion prevention, water management and more.

It means allocating costs for community decisions to the community and not burdening a single group with those costs. So, if the government (community) decides new reporting should be required, then the government should pay for the cost of that new reporting.

There has been little to no acknowledgment of the growing cost to farmers of delivering on community-decreed policies. Yet there is an expectation that farmers will embrace ever more encumbrances at the expense of their own families, to satisfy the social or political objectives of particular activists who get the government’s ear.

Finally, a successful National Food Policy means being an international trade law leader rather than always being the accused. National food policy should include an aggressive program of going after trade cheaters as their actions reduce food security, availability and affordability. Trade cheating by the United States or Europe also contributes to degrading the environment as poorer nations respond by weakening their regulatory structures to offset the unfair trade.