Optimism at the farmgate high

Ag Ministers must ensure policies fuel farm business confidence

REGINA, Feb. 8 /CNW/ - The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) recently released its Monthly Agriculture Business Barometer which shows improvement in agri-business optimism that unfolded late last year appears to have carried over into 2011. CFIB's Agriculture Business Barometer Index finished the month of January at 64.3 - just slightly off December levels of 64.7 and behind the national Business Barometer Index of 68.9.  As Federal, Provincial and Territorial (FPT) Agriculture Ministers meet this week, the CFIB is calling on governments to ensure their policies fuel this optimism in 2011.

"We are very encouraged to see optimism levels in the agriculture sector at a four year high," said Virginia Labbie, CFIB's senior policy analyst for Agri-business. "The Agriculture Ministers have a real opportunity this week to send some positive signals to help build on this momentum and continue to address the competitive challenges in the Ag sector."

When farmers were asked to prioritize how governments could improve the agriculture sector's overall competitiveness, preliminary results from CFIB's Future of Agriculture Policy 2011 survey revealed farmers' top priorities for government action included:

  • Focusing on regulatory reform and reducing red tape;
  • Reducing the total tax burden;
  • Improving market access for Canadian agricultural products; and
  • Increasing focus on industry research, development and innovation and more responsive business risk management programs.

"Agri-business owners believe reducing red tape and focusing on regulatory reform is a low cost way for governments to drive productivity and innovation in the agricultural sector," said Labbie. "CFIB welcomed Prime Minister Harper's announcement of a Red Tape Reduction Commission and is pleased several provinces also made formal commitments to focus on red tape reform."

"Food safety is a top priority for our members and is a goal all farmers share," explained Labbie. "However, CFIB reminds Agriculture Ministers that farmers are not immune to the burden of red tape and urges them to also make a formal commitment this week to remove unnecessary barriers to growth."

While farmers are upbeat for the coming year, CFIB contends there is still some unfinished business on Business Risk Management (BRM) programs.  "FPT Ministers have been reviewing BRM programs since July 2008 and CFIB farm members hope there will be some tangible improvements made to programs like AgriStability in the areas of transparency, predictability and timeliness," noted Labbie.

"It will be important for Ag Ministers to ensure their policy decisions further fuel, not dampen, optimism in the Ag sector. We hope the Ministers deliver the right signals this week," concluded Labbie.

CFIB's index is measured on a scale between 0 and 100, an index level above 50 means owners expecting their businesses' performance to be stronger in the next year outnumber those expecting weaker performance. Further details can be found at: www.cfib-fcei.ca/english/barometer

CFIB is the business voice for agriculture, representing 7,200 independently owned and operated agri-businesses in the country, the majority of which are primary producers.


SOURCE CANADIAN FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS

For further information:

CFIB's Virginia Labbie will be available prior to or following the Ag Ministers' meeting on February 11. To arrange an interview with Labbie, please call 306 757-0000 or 800-992-2342. For further information please visitwww.cfib.ca/agri

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