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Agriculture

$1.75B in mystery money could let Ottawa to start compensating farmers soon

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  • OTTAWA — The federal government says it plans to spend .75 billion by March without having said what the money is for, though at least some of the cash is likely to go to farmers hurt by new trade deals.

    The government remains tight-lipped about how it will use the rest of the “non-announced” spending it allowed for in last week’s fall economic statement.

    In all, the government has made room for $9.5 billion worth of still-to-be-unveiled commitments over the next six years.

    A government source says some of that will go to dairy, egg and poultry producers, whose protected domestic markets were opened up to more foreign competition under new North American and Pacific Rim trade deals. The source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity.

    The fall statement said the government is still talking with farmers and processors about compensation for the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and the recently ratified Asia-Pacific trade pact known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

    The negotiations will determine the size of the final package and how the money will be rolled out over the coming years.

    In 2016, the Liberal government dedicated $350 million to help dairy producers deal with the impacts of Canada’s trade agreement with the European Union. The amount included a five-year, $250-million fund for milk producers and a second program worth $100 million for cheese-makers.

    Looking ahead, Ottawa is also facing litigation related to Indigenous issues, including land claims, that could draw on some of the money.

    Most of the yet-to-be announced funding has been dedicated to the later years of the projection, with $2.1 billion set aside for 2021-22, $1.85 billion for 2022-23 and nearly $2.8 billion for 2023-24.

    One possible use for the cash: national pharmacare.

    The governing Liberals have put together a group of advisers to consult Canadians and to explore options for a national program. The council is due to report in 2019, when the topic of pharmacare is likely to become an issue during the federal election campaign.

    A spokesman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau argued the list of the government’s funding commitments in the fall update is comprehensive.

    But Pierre-Olivier Herbert noted some measures cannot be disclosed yet due to cabinet confidentiality or because ministers have yet to make a decision. Issues of national security, commercial sensitivity, or litigation or certain matters related to trade agreements must also be kept under wraps, he said.

    “The net fiscal impact of these confidential or sensitive measures is rolled up and presented at an aggregate level and will be detailed in due time,” Herbert wrote in an email.

    Thanks to the stronger economy, Morneau had more than $20 billion in extra fiscal room over the coming years to work with, compared to the forecasts in last February’s budget. But he chose to announce new initiatives — including billions of dollars worth of tax incentives for corporate Canada — that will use up all that space and then some, contributing to slightly larger annual deficits beginning next year.

    The document contained Ottawa’s long-awaited plan to help the country compete with the U.S. for investment dollars. It came in response to major American tax and regulatory reforms that many in the business community warn have eliminated Canada’s edge as an investment destination.

    The package includes new write-offs that are expected to lower federal revenues by about $14 billion over the next half-decade all by themselves.

    The fall update also contains no timeline to eliminate the Liberals’ shortfalls, which are now projected to be higher than $18 billion in each of the next couple of years.

    The opposition Conservatives and some economists have criticized the Liberals for not providing a date to balance the budget. There are warnings the government could face big fiscal challenges when the next economic downturn arrives.

    After the 2015 election, the Trudeau government abandoned vows to run yearly shortfalls of no more than $10 billion and to balance the books by 2019. Instead, it has focused on reducing the net debt-to-GDP ratio — a measure of how burdensome the debt is — each year.

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press



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    Ag Politics

    WATCH: When Boycotts Don’t Work

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  • What do you do when you want to boycott something, but can’t?

    This video is a co-production. Ryan Tipps at Ag Daily and Nick Saik worked on this piece together.  It’s about what can happen when bitten by a particular nasty little tick.  This tick, the “Lone Star” tick, has saliva that triggers an immune response reprogram in humans.  This in turn triggers an allergy to all types of red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork. In Nick’s words:

    “He’s written an excellent article that you can checkout here: https://www.agdaily.com/insights/when… Heads Up: I use a political analogy in this video. It’s not meant to rile anyone up, it just seemed like a good way to explain my point. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it was just an analogy….”

    This video was produced independently by Know Ideas Media


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    Agriculture

    Feds’ plan for neonicotinoids makes little sense, environment groups say

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  • OTTAWA — Environment groups are calling out Canada’s approach to assessing pesticides after seven years of reviews led Health Canada to simultaneously decide to allow certain popular products to keep being used with restrictions, and to propose banning the same products from outdoor uses altogether.

    The Pest Management Regulatory Agency on Thursday released its final decision on what limits should be placed on a category of nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids to keep them from killing bees. Starting in two years, the pesticides won’t be allowed to be sprayed at all on certain crops like apples and tree nuts and there will be limited times when they can be sprayed on many others, like tomatoes, eggplants and berries.

    Products that have no alternatives are given an extra year before they are affected by the decision.

    The agency said the risks the products pose to bees in other applications, such as pre-treating seeds, are acceptable and only require new labels to warn of the dangers. Most of Canada’s canola and corn crop seeds are pre-treated with neonicotinoids, along with about half the country’s soybean seeds.

    However, this decision, which won’t begin to take effect until 2021, will likely be overridden in less than a year when the agency finalizes a separate assessment of the exact same products for their impact on aquatic insects. The agency found in 2016 that the most popular of the neonicotinoids was building up in ground and surface water and recommended banning it outright. It also launched a special assessment of the other two most common “neonics,” concluding in 2018 that they also needed to be banned.

    The very final decision on that won’t come until January 2020.

    “Right now this is strictly about the risk to pollinators and for this assessment not all uses pose an unacceptable risk to pollinators,” said Scott Kirby, the director general of the environmental-assessment division of the pest management agency.

    Lisa Gue, a senior researcher at the David Suzuki Foundation, said it is “disturbing” that the agency is continuing to allow neonicotinoids at all given that the agency’s scientists have concluded they cause unacceptable harm to any kinds of insects.

    “The decision-making process here is just incomprehensible and incoherent,” she said.

    Beatrice Olivastri, the executive director of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the agency’s fragmented approach to reviewing the products is “nonsensical.”

    Neonicotinoids are used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike to manage pests like aphids and spider mites. Scientists blame the chemicals for weakening bees, making them more susceptible to disease and bad weather.

    More than one-third of the world’s food crops require pollinators, like bees, for production.

    The European Union banned neonicotinoids at the end of last year after scientists concluded there was no safe way to use them without hurting bees. In 2017, a task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated a compilation of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies of neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press



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