Thursday, September 8, 2016

Policy needs to be bolder, says think tank

The federal and provincial agriculture ministers need to be far bolder than their past five-year policies, say agriculture economists with Agri-Food Economic Systems Research.

The risk is that the dialogue and ultimate agreement will be both too small in ambition and too safe in its scope”, says Al Mussell, co-author of the policy note.

So what do you expect of a camel created by committee?

Another five years of modest change in (Growing Forward) policy and programming is unlikely to provide a stable base for industry growth; there are just too many big changes coming at us,” says Mussel.

Among them are “demographic trends in farms and food processing (that) will pressure program design, marked uncertainties (that) characterize markets and trade, and agriculture (that) will be impacted by, and can be a solutions provider for, climate change mitigation commitments,” the team says in a news release.  

Co-author Douglas Hedley, who retired after a career as a top federal agriculture department policy advisor, says “when federal and provincial governments are already underway with carbon tax or cap and trade initiatives, we cannot talk blithely about beneficial management practices and environmental farm plans.

It will become increasingly difficult to avoid the reality of differential demands for business risk management programming. 

“Moreover, the new policy framework will need to accommodate and prepare for new trade agreements, with an acknowledgment that these may not roll out exactly as anticipated, and that other measures may be required to stimulate growth,” he writes.

Another member of the team is Bob Seguin, who served as top policy advisor in the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and was chief executive for the now-defunct George Morris Centre.

It's too bad that their advice to ministers of agriculture was never made public.

Mussel was senior economist at the George Morris Centre.