Regional agriculture adaptation councils across Canada have been told their services won’t be required by the federal government come 2014.
Several of 14 provincial and regional councils — bodies now tasked with approving and distributing funding from the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program (CAAP) — have reported receiving notice that the programs they managed will be centralized through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in the future.
The five-year, $163 million CAAP, part of the Growing Forward ag policy funding framework, had been earmarked for projects identified and carried out by the farm, agrifood and agriproducts sectors. It was launched in 2009 as a successor to the Advancing Canadian Agriculture and Agri-Food (ACAAF) program.
CAAP-funded projects, whether nationwide or regional in scope, were to deal with "opportunities, respond to new and emerging issues and pilot solutions to new and ongoing issues in order to adapt and remain competitive."
National-level CAAP project funding was delivered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, while regional funding flowed through the councils.
The decision to centralize the councils’ programs was telegraphed in federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s 2012 budget last month, which announced AAFC will consolidate delivery of all grants and contribution programs across the department.
"By delivering our programs out of one branch, our department will offer more efficient services by fewer people," Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said in a separate statement last week.
"Farmers and the industry will benefit from this change, which will simplify the application process and reduce paperwork and other redundancies, while reducing costs."
John Kikkert, chairman of Ontario’s Agricultural Adaptation Council, said the AAC got verbal notice last Wednesday from AAFC that the current CAAP will expire in March 2014 and "there is no role for the regional councils in the delivery of future federally funded programs."
"The decision to abandon regional council delivery of future federal funding is disappointing news to the agriculture and agri-food industry," he said in a notice on the AAC website.
Canada’s regions "and their agricultural and agri-food sectors across the country have very different needs," said Kikkert, a poultry producer at Smithville, Ont. "These needs have been served extremely well and very efficiently by the model of regional council program delivery."
Heather Broughton, chair of the Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta (AFC), said in a separate notice that the government’s decision "will end an almost 20-year relationship between AFC and the federal government."
That said, the impact of this decision "will not be felt immediately as the current (CAAP) remains open," she wrote. "AFC will continue to manage the program until March 31, 2014 in the same effective and efficient manner it has built a reputation on."
AFC executive director John Connolly said the council "is resolved to finding other funding sources to continue the work of making those in Alberta’s agriculture and agri-food industry more prosperous."
All current CAAP projects, project timelines and funding allocations will remain unchanged, Ontario’s AAC said. All proposals awaiting board review will be reviewed as scheduled and all projects must be completed by October 2013.
Other regional councils affected by the government’s decision include the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C., Agriculture Council of Saskatchewan, Manitoba Rural Adaptation Council, Quebec’s Conseil pour le developpement de l’agriculture du Quebec and Fonds de developpement de la transformation alimentaire, the New Brunswick Agricultural Council, Agri-Futures Nova Scotia, the P.E.I. ADAPT Council, the Newfoundland and Labrador Agri-Adapt Council, the Territorial Farmers Association, Yukon Agricultural Association and Nunavut Harvesters’ Association.