a report on the DIALOG TOUR that the canadian government did about beginning farmer land issues.
2009 Dialogue Tour on Young Farmers And Farm Transfers - Executive Summary
In November of 2009, the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture), hosted half-day roundtables on young farmers and farm transfer issues in five cities across Canada. Through these roundtables, he spoke with young farmers, agricultural students, agricultural academics and industry representatives. The goal was to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing young and aspiring farmers, and those who wish to transfer their farm. These dialogues highlighted considerations relevant to the future of agriculture and agri-food policy.
Young and beginning farmers are key to the revitalization of the sector. Like the Canadian population in general, the average age of farmers is increasing. The sector's capacity to attract and retain young farmers is, therefore, an important challenge. Beginning farmers face specific challenges such as access to capital, access to farm assets, and high debt levels. Nevertheless, young people continue to enter the sector with an energetic entrepreneurial spirit, respect for the environment, innovative ideas and new ways of doing business.
Participants identified a need for a more positive, balanced view of the sector, one which acknowledges the challenges but also recognizes its opportunities and rewards. While the challenges for new farmers are significant, Canadians are generally not aware of the many opportunities for success that Canadian agriculture offers to those entering the sector. To attract new entrants, producers need to focus on their own strengths, opportunities, and successes, and actively communicate these accomplishments to all Canadians.
The roundtable discussions drew attention to the need for better access to information about tools, programs and services available for beginning farmers. Many federal and provincial programs aimed at beginning farmers and farm transfers were unknown to participants. Students and producers reported difficulty in finding information on farm programs in general, and more specifically, difficulty in finding out whether they are eligible for a program. The roundtables highlighted a need to improve access to information on programs and services.
The roundtable discussions highlighted the complexity of farm transfers. Roundtable participants also mentioned various tools that are, or could be, used to facilitate farm transfers. These include technical and professional advice, and modernization of the tax system in areas such as: increasing the lifetime capital gains exemption, broadening the definition of
"family" for intergenerational farm transfers, and developing savings plans specifically designed to facilitate farm transfer and farm retirement.
Finally, the roundtable discussions underscored that agricultural policy must take into account a diversity of business models and foster opportunities emerging in Canadian agriculture.