CANADIANS can breathe sigh of sigh of victory.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced a package of $7.4 billion to help farmers who depend on a commodity such as wheat, corn or soybeans, but not a farm, such as dairy or poultry.
In its first budget update in four years, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said the government would offer “a modest but significant investment” in Canadian agriculture and food processing.
It’s the first time the federal cabinet has made such an announcement since 2013, when it began subsidizing agriculture.
“There is a lot of work to do,” Morneau told reporters.
“We will be working on it for some time.”
The $7 million is for a variety of subsidies including subsidies for dairy and poultry producers.
But it is not included in the Liberal government’s latest farm bill, which has not yet been passed.
“The $2.4-billion package includes $4.5 billion in agricultural investment, which is a small amount compared to the $1.9-billion we had earlier this year,” said a statement from Morneau.
“However, it is a significant amount of money for Canada to invest in agricultural infrastructure.”
The announcement comes amid increasing pressure on the Liberal party and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to enact new food, forestry and agri-food policies to help Canadian farmers.
Canada has already spent $3.3 billion in recent years on food subsidies and other assistance to farmers.
A new study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that in 2017-18, Canada spent about $4 billion on food-related aid, about 20% more than in 2017.
The Canadian Association of Agricultural Economics said the federal plan is an “important first step” towards improving food security in Canada.
“It’s important to note that while the government is now looking to support food security, it still does not have the money to provide these benefits,” said the CAE.
“The federal government will continue to invest to help food security as we work to ensure the food system is sustainable.”
Farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador will also benefit from the government’s support.
In the last two years, the three provinces have been among the worst hit by the downturn in the Canadian food supply.
Saskatchewan’s dairy sector was among the hardest hit, as producers in the province have been hit by a sharp decline in the value of milk products.
“Agriculture is still our primary income stream and is an important source of income for these regions, so I think that this is a welcome announcement,” said Chris Sauter, a member of the Saskatchewan dairy industry.
“Farmers are the backbone of the economy in Saskatchewan and so it is exciting to see this support coming through for them,” he said.
“We are hopeful this is an indication that the government recognizes that they need to invest, and is looking to make investments.”
In Quebec, the $4-million will provide a temporary boost to a sector that has struggled with an oversupply of dairy products and has seen prices double in recent months.
The Quebec government is seeking to reverse a recent price hike in the dairy sector that was due to be imposed in late January.
It has called for the price of milk to be reduced to reflect a new cost-effective supply strategy.