COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • APRIL 2018 Ag spending up, but don't say "fire" Trump

by PETER MITHAM OTTAWA – Statistics Canada’s

annual review of investment by public and private entities indicates lower capital spending in the BC agriculture sector this year. Capital investment in livestock

and crop operations is set to slip to $261.2 million in 2018, down 1.2% from last year, federal statisticians say.

However, the estimate is the highest in years, meaning the decline still leaves new investment at near record levels. Statscan’s forecast of investment intentions a year ago also called for lower capital investment, extending a trend in place since 2014. Spending was set to decline 3.9% to $224.6 million. This year’s estimate is much higher – a fact the agency attributes to the methodology used to forecast investment rather than the effect of last year’s wildfires. Responding to queries from Country Life in BC, subject matter analysts with Statscan explained that they were “unable to provide much insight.” The data used to prepare the forecasts came from the agency’s agriculture division based on data collected to 2015 and then extrapolated for each province based on national forecasts. The response effectively ruled out the role of wildfires in boosting an additional $39.8 million in capital investment in the sector last year.

Statscan’s preliminary estimates

peg actual capital investment in 2017 at $264.4 million. The leap from the initial estimates was largely due to greater investment in livestock operations, which received $144 million worth of investment compared to an initial estimate of $115.6 million. Crop producers saw investment of $120.4 million versus an expected $109 million. Statscan attributed the shift to

the greater spending seen nationwide on farm equipment. Other observers also shied from

linking greater investment in BC’s farm sector last year to the wildfires.

Central 1 Credit Union said it lacked the information

required to draw a connection, while economists at MNP LLP did not feel comfortable commenting on the correlation because they hadn’t studied the phenomenon. The new estimates indicate that crop production will drive

lower investment on BC farms. Capital spending by crop operations will fall 1.5% while livestock producers will pull back by just 1%. The shift comes even as Agriculture and Agri-food Canada

forecasts better cash receipts for BC farmers in 2017. Preliminary figures AAFC released last fall indicate that crop

receipts were set to rise 5% to $1.7 billion, while livestock receipts were going to weaken to $1.5 billion. This was down 1%, but virtually unchanged from a year earlier due to the large sums involved.


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wrong on NAFTA


Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, the former Conservative Minister of International Trade, as its speaker and the North American Free Trade Agreement as his topic, it was no surprise there was a record turnout for the Canadian Association of Farm Advisors breakfast meeting in Abbotsford, March 8. Fast questions the need to

renegotiate NAFTA, saying the 25-year-old agreement has been good for Canada, tripling trade with the US since it came into being. However, he noted US president Donald Trump’s claim that trade is tilted in favour of Canada is patently false. “We’re at a deficit,” he

noted, a fact verified by numerous US trade officials. Given that the trade deficit

is a “false premise,” Fast openly wondered why Canada is even involved in a renegotiation. He did not question Trump’s motivation, noting Trump won the presidency “by appealing to the basest instincts of people – telling them how bad trade was.”

He says that has

“unrealistically” raised expectations in the US. “Trump needs to deliver a complete revamp and our stable of negotiators are the best in the world,” making the prospect of a successful negotiation “unlikely unless something changes politically in the US,” he said. If a renegotiation is concluded, Fast does not expect it to make major changes to agricultural trade between Canada and the US except, perhaps, in supply management. “The only potential change I see is in supply management,” he told his audience, noting the CP-TPP agreement has maintained the same market access allowances contained in the agreement before the US pulled out. He inferred the US would ask for, and likely receive, additional market access in dairy and poultry in a renegotiated NAFTA. While cautioning supply managed producers, Fast called TPP a great agreement for farmers who are exporters, saying it sets the rules for trade in the 21st Century. “It escapes my mind why

Trump would pull out,” he said.

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