The Ontario government is taking Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) funding for organizations and partnerships in house, a significant blow to the industry-led Agricultural Adaptation Council, which has administered such programs for 23 years.
“We’re disappointed with the province’s decision,” said Terry Thompson, executive director of the AAC. “The decision to abandon industry-led delivery is a blow to the agriculture and agri-food industry.”
Why it matters: The long-term system employed by AAC involved helping agriculture organizations best target their requests for funding. There’s concern that the process might not be as efficient, if only administered by OMAFRA.
The provincial government says it can save $600,000 in administration costs by managing the CAP funding itself, and it also says the change will result in faster approvals. The $600,000 will be put back into program funding, the government says. The new program to manage the fund for agriculture organizations and partnerships will be called Places to Grow.
“We believe that we provided a very cost effective delivery model,” said Thompson. “We believed we were efficient and we strived for excellence in customer service. That’s one of our key priorities as an organization,” he said on the day that the decision was announced by OMAFRA. AAC heard about the decision two hours before the news was released by OMAFRA.
Ernie Hardeman, Ontario’s minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, said in an interview with Farmtario that the decision was about efficiency.
“I want to thank the Adaptation Council for the work they’ve done up until now. They’ve done yeomen’s work and a lot of it,” he said.
However, he says there was too much overlap in the system.
“An application would be made to the Adaptation Council and they would go through and see which ones would qualify and be funded, then they would send their decision to the ministry and the ministry would go over it again to see if it all meets the standard. Then the minister reviewed them again to sign them.”
The new process will see organizations apply to OMAFRA who will check to see if the application meets the standard and then it will go the minister for signing.
“This will allow the money that would have been paid for the first review to be added to the total amount going out to the producers. We’ll be able to give out more money.”
However, the AAC process helped to focus applications so that fewer of them reached OMAFRA.
“We reviewed it considerably and believe it to be a more efficient system by doing it this way,” said Hardeman.
Thompson says the AAC was involved in the development of the latest round of government funding launched last year as the Canadian Agricultural Partnership – the five year federal-provincial agreement for agriculture funding.
The AAC had expected to be involved for the five years, as it had been before.
Keith Currie, president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture says they will have to see how the changes shake out.
“I know certainly AAC is very disappointed obviously and more specifically the reason they’re concerned which is valid. It is taking funding decisions away from being farmer led,” he said.
However, another $600,000 going into programs is valuable, he said.
AAC administers programs for other organizations and Thompson says it will continue to do so.
What is the Agricultural Adaptation Council?
- For 23 years, the AAC has been the intake organization for federal-provincial funding for agriculture organizations and partnerships.
- It is based in Guelph.
- It’s board of directors made up of 60 agriculture organizations.
- That board of directors approved the successful funding proposals (although final approval rested with OMAFRA).