Yesterday the 2018 Budget for Canada was published. As one would expect, for the largest part it didn’t focus much on agriculture – in the formal budget plan itself, the term arises only 21 times, and most of those occurrences are in reference to how agriculture is a part of wider development of either scientific research in general, approaches to climate control, or to developing the export market, all active areas in the industry and its relations to government.
Other, more professional voices, such as Kelsey Johnson of The Western Producer, have summarized the larger impact to the agricultural sector much better than I. As one would expect to be the case, irregardless of government, the opposition parties critics for Agriculture (Barlow as the formal Shadow Minister for Agriculture and Agri-Food for the CPC, MacGregor for the NDP) have decried the lack of focus and devoted funding for agriculture as a sector, while Minister MacAulay has focused on the few mentions of Agriculture in the plan.
One thing which was especially interesting though was the mention of the FCC in “A New Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.” To quote this in its entirety:
“To support women entrepreneurs in agriculture, the Government will create and launch a new lending product in 2018–19 designed specifically for women entrepreneurs through Farm Credit Canada. In addition, Farm Credit Canada will continue to offer advisory services, learning events and knowledge initiatives aimed at women entrepreneurs in the agriculture and agri-food sectors” (pp. 112).
This, as a part of the larger element of “Increasing Access to Capital” to women entrepreneurs is interesting. Unfortunately, at present we can’t say anything about what this will look like in it’s specific format, but the presumption based off of prior demographic specific focuses by the FCC, like that of youth, would be that this mostly in the form of specific financial instruments as well as providing help with both tools and networking with other resources.
This said, as we know from anecdotal stories about experiences of Broadfork Farm out of River Herbert, some aspects of the FCC’s structures may be precluding individuals who have been able to make a farm operation work, forcing them to make use of provincial or other lending opportunities. As such, I would be concerned with the fact that by focusing such energies into the FCC they might not be able to distribute this wealth to the broadest spectrum of potential new female entrants to the Agricultural / Agri-Food sector, but we can’t really make any sort of evaluation until we know more solid data.
One other aspect, which is perhaps a larger disincentive, is that the Budget itself didn’t outline many social supports for women who would become involved in agriculture. As the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture recently identified in their funding proposal to Status of Women Canada, this is an area which doesn’t’ve enough detail in an Atlantic Canadian context. Entities like the National Farmers Union – New Brunswick have been identifying this issue for a while now, with childcare being an especially visible example of the social supports needed. As such, I am uncertain if structurally the role of additional resources from the FCC will really provide the opportunity into agriculture that many women who wish to enter into agriculture desire.