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Thread: BCAC stable funding initiative

  1. #1
    Dennis Lapierre
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    BCAC stable funding initiative

    Memorandum

    To: BCAC Member Organizations
    Other BC Farm Organizations

    cc: BCAC and ARDCorp Board of Directors

    From: Garnet Etsell, Chair

    Date: March 5th 2010

    Re: BCAC Stable Funding Initiative



    The purpose of this communication is to seek your support and approval for the concept of establishing a stable funding strategy for the BC Agriculture Council (BCAC).

    The BCAC has over the past thirteen years successfully established itself as an important centralized provincial organization that represents the interests of BC’s very diverse agricultural community. Like the general farm organizations that exist in all other provinces and at the federal level, its primary purpose is to provide leadership to the agriculture sector and to establish and influence policy direction that affects farmers and ranchers from across the province.

    Increasingly, initiatives have also been undertaken that go far beyond this policy and advocacy work. At the operational and program-delivery level, there are a number of primarily government funded programs important to agriculture that are being administered through the council’s subsidiary company, the Agricultural Research and Development Corporation (ARDCorp). The Environmental Farm Plan is but one example.

    The BCAC is currently working with the Minister of Agriculture and Lands and Ministry staff on a mechanism to establish a more secure and stable funding base for the council. The concept being developed is one that several other provinces already have in place – an annual license or registration fee (most likely administered through the Property Tax Assessment process) per farm unit.



    The Need for Stable Funding:

    Achieving stable funding is a major project that requires the full support of BC farmers and ranchers for us to be successful in its implementation. There are many reasons for pursuing this initiative, and our rationale is outlined below:


     While establishing a stable funding mechanism has been a long term goal of the BCAC for the past 10 years, putting such a mechanism in place has not been as pressing as it is now. This is because the Council has had the benefit of relying on a capacity grant, which has kept membership dues at a reasonable level. The capacity grant will become fully drawn down by the end of 2011. In the absence of getting a stable funding mechanism in place now, the BCAC has only two options:

    o further increase membership dues; or

    o substantially reduce services and activities.

    The BCAC membership survey conducted last year clearly indicated that the BCAC should not be reducing its services and activities provided on behalf of its members. BCAC member organizations, however, are not in a position to alone support the increase in membership dues that would be required to maintain the Council’s current level of activity.


     Government has over time significantly reduced its agriculture budget and resultant activities and support for agriculture. In direct response, considerably more work has had been undertaken by both the BCAC and its member organizations to ensure that at least some of the immediate needs of BC’s entire agriculture sector continue to be met.



     Specific examples of work that both the BCAC and sector associations have taken on include policy work on the environment, climate change, labour, health and safety, taxation and research, and direct program delivery such as environmental farm planning, food safety, certification programs and bio-security. Farm organizations have over the past number of years stepped up to the plate in these and other areas, and helped cover the costs of these added responsibilities, which have often been taken on under very tight budgets, and by stretching the very limited human resources available to get the job done.



     Major policy proposals from government, such as the current modernization of the Water Act, require a strong collective response from agriculture. With a stable funding mechanism in place, the BCAC would be in a position to provide the resources to ensure that full input is received from BC’s farmers and ranchers, in order to develop well-coordinated positions on such important far-reaching issues. The Meat Inspection Regulation is an example where agriculture did not come together to develop



    alternative options at the time when this policy was first proposed by the Minister of Health, and the outcome may have been different if this had occurred.



     British Columbia is one of the few provinces that does not have some mechanism in place to provide stable funding for its general farm organization, despite the fact that the province has the most diverse agriculture in all of Canada. It is this very diversity that requires considerable more attention, communication and collaboration with member organizations to ensure that the full spectrum of interests is well represented. BC agriculture’s diversity is its key strength – but only if all interests from the full spectrum are able to be considered. A more stable funding base will provide for improved communication, collaboration and consensus building among farmers from all of BC’s diverse agriculture sectors.



     The limited financial resources available to the BCAC has put BC at a clear disadvantage in the process of developing agricultural policies and priorities at the federal level. BC has unique and diverse agricultural needs, and should be playing a more prominent role to influence the national policy development process – through the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, national sector organizations and directly with the federal government where opportunities arise.



     The pace of change with respect to public perceptions of food and agriculture has been increasing rapidly. It is therefore becoming more and more important for BCAC to have the capacity to be fully engaged in public debate on issues that impact BC’s farmers and ranchers and to coordinate promotional events to stakeholders and the general public.



     Farmers and ranchers across BC should have ready access to information of importance to their businesses on a timely basis. With an adequate funding base, the BCAC would be in a position to develop a coordinated communications plan with its member organizations to provide timely information to farmers and ranchers across BC.


    None of this can occur effectively under the current BCAC budget. In fact, we will be facing significant cutbacks if further financial funding is not secured within the next 18 months. This is why the council has asked the Province to assist us in developing a mechanism for not only assuring funding, but doing it in a way that the costs are equitably shared by the entire BC agricultural community and not, as is currently the case, almost entirely by the major well-organized sectors. The Council feels that it is now time for all bona fide farmers to contribute at least to some degree towards the benefits the BCAC has sought and achieved and continues to seek on behalf of BC’s entire agricultural community. By implementing this change, the BCAC will truly be in a position to represent the interests of farmers and ranchers from all sectors and all regions throughout British Columbia.

    This week’s provincial Budget has further demonstrated the need to implement this change without further delay. Government has “refocused” expenditures from resource ministries such as agriculture to help meet its obligations for maintaining health services. This is a trend that has been at play a little less visibly for at least the past 15 years, but it is now clearly unmistakable. The trend demonstrates that agriculture cannot expect to rely on government as it has in the past, and must be in a better position to direct its own destiny. A strong well-funding provincial farm organization can play a key role in protecting the long term sustainability of the BC agriculture sector.

    What BCAC is Asking From its Members:

    The BCAC is looking for your support to implement this change. Resolutions have already been passed by a number of member organizations, and we are asking for your organization’s support as well. At this year’s BC Fruit Growers Association AGM, for example, the resolution, “Be it resolved that the BCFGA support BCAC initiatives to secure stable funding of BCAC operations” was passed unanimously. The BCAC is asking all member organizations to discuss this issue and to consider similar motions of support.

    If you should have any questions regarding this request, please contact me at garnetetsell@shaw.ca, 604 556-0615 or 778 808-5691, or contact Andy Dolberg at andy@bcac.bc.ca, 250 388-5453 or 250 882-5776. Please let us know if you would like someone from BCAC to meet with your members or directors to discuss the stable funding initiative.

    Thank you for your support and follow-up on this matter.

  2. #2
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    I feel that most, if not all, farm organizations are underfunded due to a voluntary membership policy. As an example, the BC Sheep Federation has only 190 members out of 1800 sheep producers. Yet, we are expected to represent all producers and service all producers. We are not financially able to be full members in BCAC, although we should be. We are only able to receive information and some input through the FARM Community Council representation, which we appreciate. I believe all agricultural producers, at least those with bonafide farmer status through their farm tax assessment qualifications, should be required to join at least one farm organization. Either they join a farm group, or they would be required to directly pay membership to the BCAC.
    Last edited by Firhill; March 27th,2010 at 09:55 AM.

  3. #3
    Dennis Lapierre
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    The following is posted on behalf of Duck Creek Farm:

    The need for Stable Funding for farm organizations is patently obvious. Such a need is paramount, especially now that BC governments have - over the years - successively abandoned the Four Cornerstone Acts of Legislation that were put in place to compensate BC's farm families for the billions in takings that were extracted from them in 1973 with the creation the BC Ag Land Reserve. Ask the Land Commission for a copy of Petter's work; Sausage Making In BC - re the creation of the Ag Land Reserve for proof of what was seen a takings from BC's farm families.


    Beyond a total lack of government support for the farmer's costly preservation of SOCIETY'S "Provincial Interest" food base (the ALR) , the next to total lack of an appropriate farm budget (lower than NFLD's) for this province also warrant's a government (societal) supported Stable Funding initiative.


    Coupled with that - the downloading of the responsibility for managing BC's farm programs - like those administered under BCAC's Investment Agriculture Foundation (like the Environmental Farm Plan Program etc) also cries out for a need for societal support for the working food producing farmer's management of society's needs.


    The need to implement society wide support (not a farmer paid for) compensation to farmer organizations for their support, preservation and stewardship of society's food base and production there - is obvious - especially in this province. No where else in the country do farmers pay so much for so much ecological goods and services practice which they have performed for society at large for the past 37 years.


    It is high time that both provincial and federal governments of this land recognized the farm families of this province for their worth - that is - for their 37 years of uncompensated for contribution to society by way of their ecological goods and services support of the ALR.


    Such a farm management program fund could be created as a Stable Funding mechanism for Farm org management. The funds for this are already available for this here in BC today. They come (as a tax returned) to us through Federal Taxation of the province's citizens - by way of the Ag Transfer Payments to BC.


    Even the management of these funds are another of the Ag programs which farmers have been detailed to manage for the government for the past 10 years. Much of such funding now goes to consultants to make more and more and more ag plans. It is now past time to compensate the farmers for their management and uncompensated enactment of more and more plans which constitute society's and the government's food land base programs.


    The farmer has already paid more than his fair share. It's way past the time for the rest of society to chip in with theirs.


    I refuse further taxation to do society's work.

  4. #4
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    That's an interesting approach - to require the public to chip in, especially given the amount of government dowloading of programs that occurs.

  5. #5

    The criteria for allocating BCAP funding among the states, the amount of fuel BCAP is expected to cover, and the number of biomass power-generating facilities that are eligible are still unknown.

    Cheap Credit Cards | Home Loan Lenders --OR-- Home Loan Lending

  6. #6
    Dennis Lapierre
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    reply, part 1

    The following reply is contained in two consecutive postings because of space limits.

    John (Duck Creek Farm) has raised some important points that have driven me to find sources of information to help me better understand his point of view. I thank John for making me undertake that search. It has taken a while.
    The source I found was a well-know political scientist, Grace Skogstad from the University of Toronto, who has written extensively on the politics of agriculture. For your consideration, I am offering a verbatim portion of her text in, The Politics of Agricultural Policy Making in Canada. University of Toronto Press (1987), pp 62-65.. The following is written in the context of approaches taken by various provinces towards agricultural price and income stabilization approaches….ways to support farms.


    “When British Columbia’s NDP government implemented a comprehensive Farm Income Assurance Act in October 1973, it broke new ground in the area of stabilization, not only because it was the first province to move into the areas but also because it established a new standard and concept of stabilization, appreciably different from the federal one. First, the formula used to determine stabilization payments was unique in Canada, based as it was on total production costs of a model farm. Second, the determination of those production costs was to be by negotiation between government and the provincial farm organization, the BC Federation of Agriculture. Third, not only had producer groups had a paramount role in devising the individual commodity schemes, but they were to be entrusted, as well, with a large degree of responsibility for administering the schemes eventually established for twelve different commodities. And, fourth, unlike the wholly government-financed federal Agricultural Stabilization Act, the provincial schemes were to be jointly funded by producers and government at the ratio of one-third to two-thirds. Each individual insurance schemes (for dairy producers, cow-calf farmers, tree fruit growers, hog producers, and so on) ran for five years and assured support payment based on 75 percent of the difference between the market price and cost of production.
    Unquestionably, the BC Farm Income Assurance Act was the most generous of its kind in North America in terms of raising and stabilizing farm prices. Over the four-year period from 1974 to September 1977, it cost the government approximately $88 million in total indemnity payments. Most of this sum-$74 million went to the three largest programs: dairy, cow-calf, and tree fruits. Of these, the beef income plan was the most costly; cattlemen selling calves in 1975 got almost as much from the provincial government as from the market. Direct payments to cow-calf beef producers added an average 74 percent to market returns, while tree fruit growers obtained a supplementary 34 percent. Net farm income in British Columbia over the 1975-8 period climbed 44 percent, compared with a national rise of 1 percent.
    In entering the farm income assurance field the NDP government adopted a radically new approach that was designed, not as the federal program was, to lessen the hardships associated with slumps in markets, but rather geared more to raising and stabilizing farmers’ incomes. Three important reasons behind the move were the economic context and place of agriculture in the provincial economy, the ideology of Agriculture Minister Dave Stupich, and the political relationship between the BC Federation of Agriculture (BCFA) and the provincial Department of Agriculture.
    The agricultural economy of British Columbia generally faces higher production costs than those that prevail in other western provinces and Ontario, as well as in the American states with which BC fruit tree and vegetable growers compete. Transportation costs are high; feed must be imported for dairy, poultry, and swine sectors. As a result, farmers in the province had generally suffered, not from cyclically low incomes but from continuously low incomes. Rapidly rising feed costs in early 1973, on top of rising wage rates for labour and other such increases in costs, hit hard first the dairy industry and later the beef industry. In the dairy sector, the pricing formula designed to support incomes was based on a ten-year moving average period and could not be adjusted sufficiently quickly to raise milk prices in the short run. In the face of runaway inflation, the federal formula was too slow to react. In 1973, milk production in British Columbia declined for the first time; the provincial minister of agriculture felt that time was of the essence in finding a solution to the problem.
    Dave Stupich, agriculture minister in the NDP government (1972-75) brought to that portfolio the ambition to preserve agricultural land in the province and to keep farmers on the land. In December 1972, zoning regulations to preserve agricultural land were inaugurated with the implementation of the Land Conservation Act. A series of pieces of legislation was put forward to accomplish the second goal, the viability of the farmer himself. These included measures to ease the rate and flow of credit to farmers and processors, as well as the Farm Income Assurance Act. For Stupick, the two goals were always inextricably linked; had he not seen it that way, the producers in the province would certainly have forced him to do so.
    When the provincial government placed restrictions on the sale of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, many farmers, particularly dairy farmers in the lower mainland of the province, feared an immediate decrease in their land values and felt deprived of the major source of their retirement income: the proceeds of their farm land. As Jack Wessel, general manager of the BCFA, said in an address on 21 March 1979 to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture: We [ the Federation] went to the government and told them that through the Land Commission Act they were withdrawing an important option which the marketplace had been providing to farmers. We told them that in the past farmers had been prepared to accept low incomes because the sale of land for non-farm uses at increased values had supplemented that income. We told the government that the commitment to the preservation of agricultural land in BC must carry with it a commitment to the viability of farming in BC and they agreed with us.”
    The political influence of the BCFA was enhanced for two further reasons. First, the government did not have its own proposal for an income assurance program. It furnished the federation with funds and opportunities to bring its ideas to the government. The Select Standing Committee on Agriculture travelled the province for almost six months, inviting suggestions from farmers themselves on how to solve problems facing them. When the federation came to the government with a proposal that entailed ensuring such production costs as management fees, land value increases, and so on, and presented calculations pertaining to each of several commodity groups, civil servants found themselves without the specific detailed information needed to assess the federation’s figures. In short, they were forced to react to the farmers who, hard-pressed economically, were making demands that were not modest. Second, there was an ‘open clientele’ relationship between the minister of agriculture and the farmers. Like many of his counterparts in other provinces, Dave Stupich enjoyed close relations with the federation, which rested on regular consultation and close contact in the formulation of policy. This traditional concept, that the ministry is there to serve and help the farmers, was initially responsible for Stupich giving the federation wide influence in framing an income assurance policy. As well, the traditional belief that the needs of agriculture are ‘different’ and that the farmers themselves, along with the minister, have a monopoly of the expertise on matters agricultural made it easy to keep to a minimum the influence of other departments. Indeed, this applied even to civil servants in the Department of Agriculture itself, who backed off from antagonizing the minister, a man with a degree from the University of British Columbia and an attentive ear for the federation. This open clientele relationship, in the absence of policy-making structures that would have resulted in civil service capable of devising alternate schemes and pinpointing problems in the proposal made to them, undoubtedly augmented the influence of the federation and, as a consequence, the generosity of the Farm Income Assurance Act.

  7. #7
    Dennis Lapierre
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    reply part 2...continuation from part 1 above...

    Raising farm incomes and stabilizing them was the first priority of the scheme. Stupich also felt the scheme would be a tool to encourage the province to produce more of its own foodstuffs and help to undercut the competition of more cheaply produced fruits and vegetables from the state of Washington that came to market earlier than local produce and hence depressed local prices when they eventually arrived on the market. According to one prominent civil servant, a major goal of BC agriculture since 1973 has been to raise the province’s production of beef and hogs to 65 percent, in each case, up from 14 and 10 percent respectively. The minister of agriculture in the subsequent Social Credit government agreed.
    The BC Farm Income Assurance scheme has had some success in furthering the agricultural development of the province. The BC agricultural economy did expand between 1975 and 1978: the number of farms increased 3 percent against a nation-wide decline of 5 percent; cultivated acreage increase by 5 percent, while it remained constant in Canada as a while; egg production rose 7 percent versus a national drop of 1 percent. Milk production increased by 4 percent, yielding, in the opinion of Rick Barichello, an industry ‘stronger’ than that in Canada as a whole.
    After it defeated the NDP and formed the government in late 1975. the Social Credit party sought ways to reduce the government’s financial obligations for Farm Income Assurance and to lessen the bargaining role of the Federation of Agriculture in negotiating the cost of production and hence level of support. The different stance of the more conservative political party highlights the importance of an agriculture minister’s own personal ideology regarding his portfolio and the willingness of his cabinet and party colleagues to support his philosophy. In a provincial setting, that personal and party ideology is highlighted by the absence of formal policy-making structures that permit cabinet ministers from other departments the opportunity to scrutinize and possibly constrain the goals and programs of the agriculture minister. The greater ease of producer-ministerial contacts as the provincial, as compared with the national level seems therefore to increase producer influence.”

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    All right, there is a lot of rhetoric above on both sides of this issue. My view is simple, (remember, I'm only a farmer)

    If I was truly convinced that the BCAC was accessible for input from me and was representing all farmers as fairly as possible, I would voluntarily support them just as I support the Island Farmers' Alliance.

    However, I am not convinced, and even less so when I heard the Get Big or Get Out view expressed by a BCAC member at a recent IFA meeting.

    There is also something very wrong about being compelled by legislative authority to join and finance any organization. I had enough of that when I was a union member.

    A more radical stance that I like to put forward just to be provocative is : Three days without food will sweep away a lot of impediments to farming.

  9. #9
    Dennis Lapierre
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    Just one correction on who expressed the get big or get out comment. He was not speaking for the BCAC. He is a producer and I expect is a member of one of the organizations that is a represented on the BCAC Board table. He does not reflect the sentiment of the Board. Quite the opposite, in fact.
    I like your comment about earning trust. It is a fair comment. It is an ongoing concern that all organizations need to address.

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    Thank you, Dennis, for setting the record straight. I champion the man's right to express his individual opinion . I am glad to hear that the BCAC welcomes BOTH sides. dp

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