Field

Program Funding Discussion Paper

Awareness

According to recent census data, the Nova Scotia population is continuing to out-migrate from rural regions of Nova Scotia to urbanized centres.  This alludes to that not only are Nova Scotians further removed from agriculture by another generational degree, they are also becoming further distanced from rural life and understanding the socio-economic importance of agriculture and spin-off industries.

Increasing Public Awareness of the Agriculture industry in Nova Scotia will address two issues: one being increase the public understanding of farm practices and the stringent regulations that govern the industry; and in turn gain public trust.  The activities executed to garner public trust must be farmer delivered, which in turn must also be farmer initiated to ensure industry buy in.

The current agriculture awareness format is delivered contradictory to recent studies.  While there are farmer positions on the Nova Scotia Agriculture Awareness Committee, the committee and events are government organized.  A central organizing body for events and resources is essential for success and continuity, however, a farmer/industry driven approached would be most suitable for public buy in.  Increasing awareness about agriculture in Nova Scotia can be addressed across multiple mediums.  Successful tools used to educate students include Nova Scotia teachers and activity guide, hands on activities like chick-hatches and AgZone.  General events, like Open Farm Day, Meet Your Farmers at the Mall and Agriculture Literacy Month at local libraries draw great attendance and could be greatly enhanced with increased farmer participation.

Positions:

  • All tools and resources to educate and inform Nova Scotians about Agriculture must be representative of the industry in the province.
  • Resource content and events must be farmer and industry driven.
  • Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture must commit to regularly fund surveying Nova Scotians perceptions of Agriculture conducted through the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity.

 

Markets and Trade

The Advisory Council of Economic Growth has identified Agriculture as a key industry to grow Canada’s export market.  With an ambitious goal of increasing agfood exports by $30 billion over the next ten years, there is the possibility of great potential for agriculture export growth.

Agriculture exports from Nova Scotia continues to be on the rise.  contribute .  This value is primarily made up of Christmas Trees, Apples, Mink, Wild Blueberries and Carrots.  Each of these commodities became a leaders in exports for this own individual reasons:

  • Blueberries grew their markets through the agri-marketing program
  • Mink on the rebound of an industry wide collapse, has a naturally strong, top quality product that dates back to early fur-trade days
  • Plant breeding technologies have developed apples to be grown efficiently in this region.

Other opportunities identified in these growth markets are niche or value added.  In order to address these markets, Quality Assurance Programs must be in place.  These third party certification programs conduct audits and provide assurance to the customer that the product was produced in the manner identified.

With the implementation of the Safe Food for Canadians Act and its applicable fees, regulatory changes and new control measures, farms selling produce direct to market across provincial boarders will be required to adhere to federal regulations.  Considering the commodity diversification that is present on farms in Nova Scotia, establishing a preventive control plan for each commodity would be an elaborate cost for farms.  By nature, farms selling direct to market are smaller in scale and income; adding the additional costs of an extensive preventive control plan would increase financial burden on the farm.  Keeping in line with the federal one-for-one rule, in the cases where fees will be required through the purchase of licenses and registrations are being implemented, there will be a time saving component by being able to apply for certificates online.

Recommendations

  • Agriculture Policy Framework programs must maintain an AgriMarketing Fund to ensure that Commodities have access to market exploration and growing market access.
  • Funding to support farms with their Preventative Control Plans and other measures to bring them in line with the Safe Food for Canadians Act Regulations.

Capacity

The NS Commission on Building our new economy presented their report to the Provincial Government. The report says that, “At the same time, improving productivity and competitiveness in our foundational rural industries – tourism, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, mining and manufacturing – is essential if we are to build a stronger trade economy for the province as a whole. Embracing freer trade, and expanding the number of businesses that export to both traditional and emerging markets are additional priorities for changing the economic outlook for Nova Scotia.”  In order to improve productivity and competitiveness, capacity must be improved in order to do so.

Infrastructure deficits create barriers for farm growth.  Farms are naturally located in rural regions of the province which means utilities and business services are often limited.  Meat processing is an ever increasing concern for livestock farmers in Nova Scotia.  With natural livestock harvest cycles for custom processing and deer hunting season taking place at the same time, meat processing has a seasonal component to it which isn’t being met with inspected slaughter facilities.

Utilities like 3-phase power and broadband internet provides opportunity to for farmers upgrading their farm equipment.  With three phase power, farmers are able to use electricity more efficiently with three phase motors which are also less expensive to repair compared to their single-phase counterparts.  Technology is available to convert single phase power to three-phase which is presently being explored by Nova Scotia Power. The Canadian Radio-Television Consortium ruled in December that all Canadians will have access to broad-band internet.  This ruling will improve certain business needs of farms and businesses in rural communities such as online stores and security systems.

In 2014, Canadian Agriculture Human Resource Council released a report titled The Labour Market Inventory which analyzed the needs, barriers and opportunities for labour in each of the provinces.  The Nova Scotia report discovered in 2014, 9,200 people were employed in agriculture and 15% of those were made up of foreign workforce.  With that, there were 500 jobs left unfilled which lead to $15 million in lost sales due to labour shortages.  The report projected that in 2025 there will be 11,300 workers required in the agriculture industry.  Between 2014 and 2025, CAHRC anticipated 29% of the workforce will be lost to retirement, creating a labour gap of 3500 people.  Over the ten year forecast period, the most difficult positions to fill will be the managers in agriculture positions and general farm worker positions.  There will also be a gap in the harvesting labourers and nursery and greenhouse workers.

The majority of commodities in Nova Scotia are limited by the province’s short growing season.  As technology advances, farmers seek innovated ways to grow their business.  Season extension structures and tile drainage have allowed farmers to increase their land mass and the season in which products are grown.  Also, barriers like restricting farms that, by regulation, are not required to have a food safety plan for food safety equipment funding is not supporting farm growth nor promoting food safety.

 

Recommendations

  • Programs should be designed to increase capacity for a sector or region. Funding to study the feasibility of opening and development of additional abattoirs in underserviced regions of Nova Scotia.
  • Funding to increase efficient energy on farm must be incorporated to allow for farms to reduce energy consumption and in turn reduce energy costs.
  • Ensure a healthy and safe agriculture workforce by funding core operations (Manager) for and programs offered by Farm Safety Nova Scotia.
  • To assist farms with energy requirements when adverse weather creates outages or unreliable power sources, funding for generators must be included.
  • Remove the requirement for farms to have accredited food safety plans to access funding for food safety equipment relevant to their operations. In addition to other funding areas that were in GF2, include tile drainage and season extension at 50%.

Research

Nova Scotia is home to the only Agriculture Faculty in Atlantic Canada, a resourceful extension corporation and a Federal Research Station.  These resources make it possible to have timely, regional and commodity specific research available for farmers to improve farm operations and practices.

In 2014, ADAPT funding was canceled with a national program taking its place to address collaborative research.  Prior to the program’s cancellation, ADAPT was proven to be effective in addressing the sensitivity of local, sectoral, regional and provincial needs of farmers.  A one size fits all approach does not respond effectively to the uniqueness and varied circumstances among provinces and regions across the country.

To address specific issues, research chairs have proven to be effective.  Research Chairs are an invaluable resource that can hone in on key issues impacting the industry including energy and nutrient management planning.  Commodities including both Beef and Mink were able to secure Research Chairs to address critical, commodity specific issues.  To secure a Research Chair, substantial amounts of funds must be raised and a minimum of a five year contract commitment.

 Recommendations

  • Regional and commodity based research and innovation should be industry lead and government funded.
  • Re-establish funding for Research Chairs. Adjust the cost share to 75% and agree to commit to five-year funding upfront.

 

Business Development

Written succession plans are an area that needs improvement in order to successfully transition farms in Nova Scotia to the next generation.  According to the 2016 Census, only 5% of farms in Canada had a written succession plan.  This is particularly alarming considering the average age of a farmer has increased to 57.

Skilled labour is critical to any farm operation.  Trained employees increase farm productivity and efficiency.  Additionally, with sufficient labour, farms are able to add value to their products which creates an opportunity to increase revenues and grow markets.  With the labour shortage identified by CAHRC and restrictions of foreign labour working in value-added processing, value added opportunities are lost.

 

Reccomendations

  • Program funding for business development should be available to directly to farms to implement a succession plan.
  • Program funding for business development should be available to farm organizations to coordinate workshops on business development and planning.
  • Program funding for to increase value added technologies and abilities on farm should be made available for farms that have demonstrated a business plan for the product in which is being produced.

Risk Management

Agriculture is a high risk business that faces volatile prices, unpredictable weather and a global market influenced by government supports to competing farmers in other countries. Business Risk Management Programs must manage the effects of short-term volatility in weather and markets through bankable a timely programs.

AgriStability

AgriStability is intended to provide support when farms experience a large margin decline. Considering the payments are triggered when the current year program margin falls below 70% of the reference margin, the program is essentially a disaster relief program under the current framework. AgriStability cannot be limited to providing disaster support and must provide funding on a timely basis to ensure that the short-term impacts of significant income losses are mitigated. Transparent and straightforward calculations are necessary to allow farmers to predict and bank upon impending payments. Many farms in Nova Scotia are mixed commodities. The current AgriStability program penalizes diversified farms as the program considers the total farm income rather than the loss of the specific commodity. The current AgriStability program does not work in Nova Scotia and must be altered so Nova Scotia farmers can benefit from the program.

Recommendations

  • Introduce provincial delivery of the AgriStability program.
  • Restore AgriStability payment when programs year margins fall below 85% of a farmers’ historical reference margin.
  • Commodity losses within a diversified farm should be recognized and result in a payment for the commodity that suffered a loss regardless of other commodity prices on the farm.
  • To address the low uptake of AgriStability, conduct pilot projects on changes to the program.
  • To address the single commodity losses on a diversified farm, a stop loss program must be implemented.

AgriInsurance

Crop damage due to wildlife pressure is ever increasing in Nova Scotia. With improved plant genetics, crops are able to produce higher yields than in the past. These higher yields have not been accounted for in farms’ historic yields because of losses contributed to wildlife damage. Assessments are conducted by a third party using visual inspection and historic data. Visual inspections are only qualitative. With the number of deer feeding on the crops increasing every year, the use of historic data it is difficult to justify. As wildlife populations continue to grow, damage to farmers’ crops increase as well. There also needs to be a creditable way to evaluate the damage in all crops.

Recommendations

  • Re-evaluate the approach used to calculate yield loss. Yield loss should be determined through quantitative means rather than the current qualitative process.
  • Farmers should be encouraged mitigate risk on farm through funding avenues. Funding for crop protective structures such as wildlife fences and windbreak solutions must be considered in future programs.

Environment

The Environmental Farm Plan Program is an education program that helps farmers identify and assess environmental risk and their property.  It enables farmers to incorporate environmental consideration into their everyday business decisions.

The Environmental Farm Plan Program is a valuable program in Nova Scotia with over 1800 farms participating in the program.  As a well establish program, many farms rely on the program and its staff as a knowledge source on any environmental concerns.  A National EFP Benchmarking Comparative Analysis Report prepared for Agricultural Research and Extension Council of Alberta indicated that many lenders look favorably upon applications from producers who have completed an EFP.

Agriculture provides ecological goods and services through the creation of wildlife habitat, land stewardship, soil conservation, watershed management and many other activities.  With the introduction of Federal programs such as the Species at Risk Partnership on Agricultural Lands, it has been made obvious that protecting Species at Risk is a high priority.  Based on survey results, many farms alter farm practices to protect the at risk species that are present on their farm.  There are other programs that exist to help farmers with their efforts of environmental stewardship.  As examples, organizations like Ducks Unlimited work with farmers to strategically construct wetlands on farms, and the Agriculture Biodiversity Conservation plans through the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources help farmers with biodiversity conservation on farm.  With the efforts of the NSFA and other farm organizations in the province, it is evident that alternative land use projects are increasing in interest among farmers.  These stewardship programs also provide an avenue to showcase the environmental stewardship efforts taking place on farms to the public.

 

Recommendations

  • At minimum, maintain the existing delivery of the Environmental Farm Plan program in Nova Scotia. With the number of farms in the province on the rise, increase funding dollars would provide the best resource to enhance the program while meeting the needs of farm community.
  • Incorporate funding for farmers to make improvements to farm land and production practices that further protect species at risk and promote the use of marginal lands for Alternative Land User Services.

 

Administration

Efficiency and timeliness of the administration of programs is essential for an effective program.  Program delivery has not been timely, nor efficient in delivery in the past.  No year was the same as the year previous; the applications were open for three days one year, another they opened three months early and during another year, there were delays in project approvals.  The one project, one application approached simplified the application process.

Recommendations

  • Develop a programs delivery model that would allow programs to be open for a twelve month duration.
  • Allow farms to access five year support and funding from the Home Grown Success Program, so farmers can access multiple year funding in one year for larger scale projects that will help lead to organized progressive development of their farms.