In what he called the most ambitious plan of its kind in Canada, Quebec Agriculture Minister Laurent Lessard has announced a five-year, $10 million program to support young people entering farming.
The plan, announced Tuesday, includes measures aimed at supporting young farmers in the first five years following a farm transfer or the launch of a new farm business, a period the province described as the most crucial to a farm’s sustainability.
Lessard’s announcement marks the latest in a list of provincial initiatives tied to the government-commissioned Pronovost report on the future of agriculture and agri-food in Quebec.
Among its other recommendations, the report, released in February by former senior civil servant Jean Pronovost, urged the creation of systems that focus on innovation, diversification and young people entering agriculture, as well as continuing professional development among farmers.
In describing a “state of tension” in the industry, the report noted the difficulties in carrying out intergenerational farm transfers as one of the problems creating said tension.
Programming to be supported through the funds announced Tuesday is to include:
- support for investment in unused farmland and farm buildings;
- support for young farmers’ adoption of good management practices, including development of co-operatives to share labour and farm equipment, to help young farmers contain their capital costs during the first few years of farming;
- financial assistance for young farm entrepreneurs’ groups setting up community skills development projects;
- facilitating farm start-ups, especially in non-traditional commodities or small-scale operations;
- facilitating diversification projects, whether through adding a new commodity on a farm or developing value-added products; and
- promoting skills development for farmers who plan to set up a farm project or have done so in the past five years, by way of training, internships or providing consultants’ services.
The $10 million announced Tuesday will come from the $60 million set aside in the last provincial budget for following through with the province’s renewed focus on growth in the ag sector, also spurred by the Pronovost report.
Among Pronovost’s recommendations aimed at supporting young farmers (although not mentioned in Tuesday’s announcement), he had also urged farmers in supply-managed sectors to move to lower or limit the cost of quotas, and to bank a portion of any quota they buy or sell, to be used to help young farmers enter supply-managed sectors.