The Canadian federal government has proposed amendments to the Farm Debt Mediation Act and other key statutes related to agriculture and agri-business:  Bill C-18, The "Agricultural Growth Act"

On December 9, 2013, the federal government introduced Bill C-18 - the Agricultural Growth Act. The primary objective of the Bill is related to changes to the federal government's Advance Payment Program ("APP"), which allows for cash advances to producers against agricultural products.

Under the APP, the federal government guarantees repayment of cash advances issued to farmers by participating producer organizations. Proposed amendments to simplify the administration of the APP and enhance program flexibility and accessibility.

The Bill also proposes amendments to the Farm Debt Mediation Act. These amendments, if passed, will:

  • make landlords who have granted leases containing an option to purchase to farmer's "secured creditors" who must give notice under the Act.
  • require Administrators to give notice to the Minister of Agriculture with respect to debts which are guaranteed by the Minister.
  • allows the Minister to be party to an Arrangement under the Act.
  • requires secured creditors to serve an Administrator, as well as the farmer, with Farm Debt Medication Act notices.
  • grants immunity from civil action to Mediators and Experts, as well as administrators.

The changes to the Farm Debt Mediation Act clarify the farm debt mediation process and facilitate the participation of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in the mediation process when the Minister is a guarantor of a farmer’s debt.

Other amendments proposed in Bill C-18 include changes to the Plant Breeders’ Rights Act in respect of the duration and scope of the rights protected under that Act as well as the conditions for the protection of those rights. It also would provide for exceptions to the application of those rights.

Bill C-18, if passed, will also amend the Feeds Act, the Fertilizers Act, the Seeds Act, the Health of Animals Act and the Plant Protection Act to, among other things:

  • authorize inspectors to order that certain unlawful imports be removed from Canada or destroyed;
  • authorize the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to take into account information available from a review conducted by the government of a foreign state when he or she considers certain applications;
  • authorize the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food to issue certificates setting out any information that he or she considers necessary to facilitate certain exports; and
  • require that a registration or a licence be obtained for conducting certain activities in respect of certain feeds, fertilizers or supplements that have been imported for sale or that are to be exported or to be sent or conveyed from one province to another.

It also will amend the Agriculture and Agri-Food Administrative Monetary Penalties Act to, among other things, increase the maximum limits of penalties that may be imposed for certain violations.

Lastly, Bill C-18 proposes amendments to the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act to modernize the requirements of the advance payments program, improve its accessibility and enhance its administration and delivery.  Of particular note is the proposed more expansive definition of "producer", capturing anyone who controls the producer in any manner, "whether directly through the ownership of voting shares or indirectly through a trustee or other person who administers the property of another, a legal representative, an agent or mandatary or other intermediary acting as nominee or otherwise, a trust, a contract, the ownership of a corporation or otherwise."

Bill C-18 was introduced in the House of Commons on December 9, 2013.  It remains at First Reading as of January 15, 2013.