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Opinion: Federal budget disappoints, as it always seems to do

Grain Growers of Canada provided a list of policy areas that the budget ignored.
The Wheat Growers Association declared a “failing grade for an out-of-touch federal budget.”

As sure as spring follows winter, last week’s federal budget was met with a chorus of raspberries from the nation’s producers.

Disappointment seems to be the inevitable response from farming country after Ottawa outlines its annual spending plan. Last week was no exception.

“Budget 2024 falls short of providing critical investments for grain farmers,” was the headline on the Grain Growers of Canada news release.

“CFA disappointed with lack of agriculture in federal budget 2024,” said the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.

The Wheat Growers Association declared a “failing grade for an out of touch federal budget.”

The headline on the Canadian Cattle Association’s news release was more positive: “Budget 2024 sends a positive indicator that meaningful changes are coming to Livestock Tax Deferral.”

“While the budget did have some positive investments in the sector, such as the re-commitment to launch of consultations on interoperability, carbon rebates for small businesses and previously announced funding for temporary improvements to the Advanced Payments Program, there was no mention of pivotal issues for the sector such as investments in environmental programming, chronic labour issues in food production or improvements to transportation and trade infrastructure,” said the CFA.

The Wheat Growers Association was less charitable. It acknowledged the increase in the interest-free portion of the Advanced Payments Program but pointed out that intense farmer lobbying was required to force the government’s hand because it hadn’t adequately consulted with producers on the file.

Grain Growers of Canada provided a list of policy areas that the budget ignored, including an extension to the extended rail interswitching pilot, investments in trade-enabling infrastructure, investments in grain-related research and development, initiating a review of the Canada Grains Act and revamping the Accelerated Investment Incentive.

A complex industry such as agriculture has many needs that are best met by government, and the annual budget is a significant way to measure how well they are addressed.

Disappointment is only natural when government is seen as not paying adequate attention to the sector.

It’s obvious from farm group reaction that the government didn’t come close to scratching items off the wish list, and in many cases, the displeasure is warranted.

While it’s important to recognize the budget didn’t ignore agriculture, some items that on the surface looked like victories turned out to be head-scratchers.

An example is the promise to move on interoperability, which producers have been requesting for some time. In a nutshell, it would require large implement manufacturers to ensure their equipment is compatible with new technology developed by smaller companies.

The budget promises to conduct consultations later this year into amending the Copyright Act, which sounds promising.

However, one has to wonder why the government is bothering with this process when a private member’s bill is sitting in the Senate that would accomplish the same thing if passed and given royal assent.

As for all those agricultural needs that weren’t addressed in the budget, it’s imperative that producers keep their foot on the gas.

They should take the few wins they received and continue applying pressure on areas that remain unfinished.

Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Michael Robin, Robin Booker and Laura Rance collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.