Bill C-18: Reply from Mark Eyking, Member of Parliament for Sydney-Victoria

Dear Diana,

Thank you for taking the time to write and share your concerns regarding Bill C-18, the Agricultural Growth Act. The bill amends nine separate pieces of agriculture-related legislation affecting plant breeders’ rights, feed, seed, fertilizer, animal health, plant protection, monetary penalties, agriculture marketing programs and farm debt mediation. Largely it appears that this bill attempts to streamline regulatory processes affecting farmers and the agriculture industry more broadly.

The Liberal party welcomes the intentions of C-18 to increase access for farmers to important programs. However, due to the many Acts that will be affected this is essentially an omnibus bill which has caused hesitations among farmers.  We must carefully investigate each of the acts that are going to be affected. We have witnessed the government’s tendency to push through legislation limiting debate in the process, and farmers may be faced with dramatic changes they were not even fully aware of that are part of this new legislation. Before the Liberal Caucus can accept this bill, we are pushing for several amendments.

A closer look at the text of Bill C-18 reveals a farmer’s ability to save seed. When storing that saved seed, however, the farmer needs the permission of the holder of the Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) – which may or may not be given. That means that the breeder has the right to charge royalties as well. C-18 also empowers government to remove, restrict or limit the farmer’s seed-saving privilege by passing regulations, a process that can happen quickly and without public debate.  That being said I believe it would be beneficial to incorporate a farmer’s right rather than their privilege to allow for the use of seeds from the crops they grow. I am very concerned that this bill transfers more authority and power to the corporate sector at the expense of primary producers.

Moreover, the inclusion of multi-year agreements in the bill between producers and administrators of the Advanced Payment Program is promising. However there are many farmers who would like to see an amendment to increase the advance maximum limit from $400,000 to $800,000. There is an opportunity within this bill to make amendments and increase limits or extend limits to each program year. Increasing maximum advance totals could help with the continued inflation of farm expenses, which is not currently addressed in this bill.

I have also been hearing concerns relating to the amendments of the Agriculture and Agri-food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act which is a key part of Bill C-18. This is said to increase the maximum limits of penalties that may be imposed for certain violations. This is very vague content and requires further explanation to ensure farmers understand the specifics of such ‘violations.’ Instead of monitoring they are going to be enforcing bigger fines. Is this really going to make our food safer? CFIA should have inspectors working with processors rather than enforcing strict penalties. There must be a partnership.

As critic for Agriculture and Agri-Food I welcome the intentions of C-18 to increase access for farmers to important programs; however I look forward to further discussing this Bill in committee in an effort to thoroughly investigate its merits and incorporate several amendments to benefit Canadian farmers.


Mark Eyking, M.P.