Second Reading - Bill 102
(27 November 2017)

From Hansard - 27 November 2017

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Bill 102 — The Agri-Food Amendment Act, 2017

Hon. Mr. Stewart: — Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I rise today to move second reading of The Agri-Food Amendment Act, 2017.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Saskatchewan’s agri-food agencies serve an important purpose in our province’s agricultural industry. These agencies include 12 development commissions, 3 development boards, and 5 marketing boards. They cover the spectrum of our agricultural industry, from all manner of crops and livestock to eggs and milk. Saskatchewan’s agri-food agencies are mandated to perform promotion and development activities, including research. Their activities help producers reduce input costs, increase production, and generally improve farm profitability.

The Agri-Food Act, 2004 provides a framework for Saskatchewan’s 20 agri-food agencies. To date the Act has been an effective tool for industry growth and development; however, the Act is 13 years old. A refresh is in order to keep the legislation current. Our government reviewed the Act to identify potential areas for improvement. We consulted with all 20 of the agri-food agencies as well as the provincial milk processor and the province’s two poultry processors. We looked closely at how our legislation compared to that of other jurisdictions. We had conversations with the Agri-Food Council, the independent, appointed board that supervises and monitors all agri-food agencies, and we talked to the Ministry of Justice.

Through these consultations, we identified a number of areas for improvement. The proposed amendments will promote the principles of accountability, transparency, and efficiency, while reducing unnecessary red tape and increasing flexibility for agents. I will take a few minutes, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to outline the proposed amendments.

We propose to grant agencies the power to make governance and operational changes using board orders rather than regulatory amendments. A straightforward change such as a change to a board size or a term length currently needs to go through a full regulatory amendment. Allowing a change to be made through a board order approved by the Agri-Food Council will improve efficiency.

The bill will also grant marketing boards power to develop and deliver animal welfare and food safety initiatives. Agencies already take a proactive role in these areas and this amendment will ensure their ability to lead these initiatives is directly recognized within the Act.

The bill also proposes to clarify the role of the Agri-Food Council to ensure the Act reflects council’s role as adviser and facilitator in addition to its traditional role as supervisory body. The council currently provides valuable governance training to new agencies and ensures all agencies are following governance best practices, in addition to reviewing agency minutes and board orders. These important responsibilities will be clearly recognized in an updated Act.

We also propose general housekeeping amendments such as clarifying timelines in which notification of orders or decisions must be provided. Additionally, changes are needed to reflect that the way we communicate has changed significantly over the past 13 years. The changes proposed will ensure agencies can use a variety of options to notify producers of information instead of requiring agency orders or other information to be shared by mail. The changes will provide flexibility for agencies to use other communication methods as needed. This is a practical change that will serve producers more efficiently and more cost-effectively.

Our consultation with stakeholders was thorough and they have expressed support for these changes. These amendments build on the foundation of the Act and its purpose of promoting, developing, regulating, and controlling the production and marketing of agricultural products in Saskatchewan.

In summary, Mr. Deputy Speaker, the amendments to The Agri-Food Act will provide agencies more freedom and flexibility in determining general governance and operational matters. These changes will make the Act more forward looking while ensuring it continues to provide an effective framework for the province’s agri-food agencies. I move, Mr. Speaker, that The Agri-Food Amendment Act, 2017 be read a second time. Thank you.

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