CFIB says Ag Ministers must develop farmer-friendly policies



    REGINA, June 26 /CNW/ - Canadian farmers want governments to introduce
policies that are relevant and useful to the agriculture sector, particularly
primary producers, according to the latest research by the Canadian Federation
of Independent Business (CFIB). In lead up to the Agricultural Ministerial
meeting this week, CFIB encourages federal and provincial agriculture
ministers to consider the views of farmers put forward by its report,
Cultivating a Fertile Foundation - Agri-Business Agenda for the Next
Generation of Agriculture and Agri-Food Policy, which provides specific
recommendations on four key themes that have not received adequate attention
in previous policy initiatives.
    CFIB's report is based on multiple surveys of its agri-business members
across Canada and provides policy recommendations to federal, provincial, and
territorial governments as they design a replacement to the current
Agricultural Policy Framework (APF). "Our survey results reveal that farmers
did not find the policies under the current APF very helpful to their
business," said CFIB's vice president for Agri-business, Marilyn Braun-Pollon.
"Farmers want business focused policies that recognize the many challenges
facing their operation and lead to long-term stability of the industry."

    CFIB's report provides specific recommendations on four key themes:

    Reduce the regulatory burden on the agriculture industry
    --------------------------------------------------------

    "Reducing the burden of regulations and red tape on agri-businesses at
all levels of government is one of the most cost effective methods of boosting
the profitability of farmers," Braun-Pollon noted. "Excessive regulation poses
a serious productivity challenge for the agriculture industry." In fact, 69
per cent of CFIB agri-business owners believe that regulations significantly
reduce the productivity of their business. CFIB is pleased the recent federal
budget took an important step forward on this issue when it committed to
reduce the paper burden by 20 per cent by 2008.
    When asked what they would do with savings due to a reduction in the cost
of dealing with regulations, survey results indicate that 58 per cent of
farmers would invest in equipment and expand operations, 55 per cent would pay
down debt, 36 per cent would convert savings into profit, and over one third
would increase employees' wages and benefits. "The savings farmers would
receive from a reduction in the cost of dealing with regulations would further
promote entrepreneurship, growth, and productivity," Braun-Pollon added.

    Reduce the total tax burden on the agriculture industry
    -------------------------------------------------------

    "One of the most significant actions government can take to enhance the
productivity and competitiveness of Canada's agriculture sector is to reduce
the tax load. Taxation policies influence how entrepreneurs, including
farmers, are able to grow and expand their businesses," Braun-Pollon said.
CFIB's report makes recommendations for cuts to fuel taxes, personal income
taxes, property based taxes, corporate taxes, and payroll taxes.

    Recognize the importance of succession within the agriculture industry
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------

    A recent CFIB survey revealed nearly 30 per cent of agri-business owners
plan to leave their businesses within the next five years, with that figure
jumping to 59 per cent over a period of ten years. "The successful transfer of
Canadian farms to the next generation is one of the most important issues
facing the Canadian agriculture industry and is a sleeping giant right now,"
Braun-Pollon said. "If handled properly, there are great opportunities for
current owners, the next generation of owners, their employees, and for the
Canadian agriculture sector as a whole."
    CFIB's key recommendation for recognizing the importance of succession
within the agriculture industry was an increase to the $500,000 Lifetime
Capital Gains Exemption (LCGE) to $1 million by increasing it in $100,000
increments over the next five years. "The LCGE has been instrumental in
promoting investment and risk taking, and is one of the most important
retirement tools for farmers. CFIB is pleased the recent federal budget
announced an increase of the LCGE to $750,000, which is a positive step in
assisting farmers with their succession plans," Braun-Pollon added.

    Implement an effective farm safety net program
    ----------------------------------------------

    CFIB agri-business members also want a more responsive long-term safety
net program. "By no means do farmers believe a safety net program should
provide the resources needed to fully finance their business," Braun-Pollon
noted. "Farmers believe safety net programs should be one of many tools to
assist their business with risk management, along with policies such as
reducing the regulatory burden and total tax burden that they carry." CFIB
recommended governments implement specific guiding principles when designing
any future farm support programs, including extensive industry consultation,
minimal regulatory burden and administration costs, and a transparent,
responsive design.
    "The next generation of agriculture policies must recognize the important
contributions of farmers to the agriculture economy and provide measures to
encourage their success," Braun-Pollon concluded. "Governments must implement
long-term solutions beneficial to farmers in order to create a solid base for
the industry." CFIB urges governments to give careful consideration to the
recommendations provided in its report to ensure Canada's agriculture sector
grows and prospers in the decades to come.

    The full report is available on the CFIB web site at
http://www.cfib.ca/agri/apf.asp




For further information:

For further information: Marilyn Braun-Pollon at (306) 757-0000 or
1-800-992-2342


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