Layer barn transitions and the trade mitigation program
By Lilian SchaerFeatures Barn Management
Grant can help with alternative housing transitions for layers.
Government funding programs can be a great way for farmers to access extra dollars to help pay for on-farm improvements. The process of applying for and receiving cost-share funds can often be cumbersome and time-consuming, and past negative experiences have left many farmers frustrated, especially if their applications were unsuccessful.
Jonathan Giret of Elite Agri Solutions has some advice on how to make the process easier and why poultry producers in particular should consider giving funding programs another chance. This is especially applicable for egg producers looking at housing-related projects to comply with changes in the code of practice requirements.
The latest Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pullets and Laying Hens requires that all laying hens must be housed in enriched cages or non-cage housing systems by July 1, 2036. The phase out of conventional cages began on April 1, 2017.
Trade impact mitigation program
When the Canadian government signed on to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact, it agreed to give other countries increased access to Canadian poultry markets while simultaneously promising a trade mitigation compensation package for Canadian poultry farmers that will support the long-term competitiveness of the sector. The free trade agreement involves Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Last year, the federal government launched that trade mitigation package for the poultry industry in the form of the Poultry and Egg On-Farm Investment Program (PEFIP), which will provide non-repayable contributions of almost $647 million to poultry farmers over the next decade.
It’s this program that Giret, himself a broiler producer, says is a worthwhile investment of time and effort for poultry farmers, even if navigating the application process can be complicated and time consuming for some.
“This is an entitlement program, so farmers just have to go and get the money with eligible projects; the funding is there,” Giret says, adding that PEFIP covers 70 per cent of cost-share with the ability to stack or apply to other programs for additional funds up to 85 per cent of project costs.
What is eligible?
Project eligibility criteria are broad and include on-farm investments that increase efficiency or productivity, improve on-farm food safety and biosecurity, improve environmental sustainability or respond to consumer preferences.
It’s this last category that can be especially beneficial to egg producers looking to transition from conventional cages to alternative housing systems to become code of practice compliant.
“Under responding to consumer preferences, improving animal welfare is a key area,” Giret notes. “This includes: barn upgrades like transitioning to enriched systems; adding new controllers, fans and heat exchangers; adopting alternative housing systems; or transitioning to organic (production).”
Eligible costs include those directly related to the project, such as planning, design and construction of new infrastructure; software, equipment and accessories related to poultry and egg production; as well as contracted services, labour, tool rental and training.
Also important for producers to know is that the program is retroactive. That means any activities or costs incurred on or after March 19, 2019, are eligible for cost-share, so recently completed projects could also qualify.
And for producers who have already retrofitted an existing barn or built a new facility in the last several years, Giret suggests looking at environmental sustainability improvements like solar planels, alternative heating or composting.
Ineligibles are expenses like paying taxes, or buying quota or land, birds to replace or expand a flock, or equipment not primarily used for poultry and egg production, for example.
To date, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), which administers the program, has been slow in reviewing and approving submitted applications. Although their goal is to process all applications within 100 business days, the current average is about 220 days, according to Giret. He does anticipate this will speed up as AAFC’s program officers become more familiar with both the program and the poultry industry.
“My advice is to apply today for pre-approval and get paid in 2023, hopefully,” he says, adding that due to rising costs, he advises producers to get their applications in sooner rather than later to maximize their benefit from the funding.
Any eligible projects must be completed by March 31, 2031.
Here are Giret’s top tips for producers looking to apply to PIFEP:
With an average of more than seven months to receive a response to an application, it will take more than two months to eventually receive payment for approved expenses – and this can take longer if clarifications are needed. “For quite a few programs federally, this is fairly regular,” he explains.
Check for other grants.
When putting a project together, PEFIP allows producers to stack funds with other grant for up to 85 per cent of eligible costs. Giret suggests keeping an eye on the new policy framework program that will be replacing the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP) next spring or programs in other areas like green energy, sustainability and energy efficiency.
“It does take effort and luck but if the projects line up in appropriate time windows, we can apply to multiple streams. CAP, for example, has supported animal welfare projects like enriched cages and aviaries,” Giret says.
Keep a clean paper trail.
Make sure invoices reflect expenditures for the project being claimed and that payments not only match those invoices but come from the correct accounts and farms. This is one thing Giret, in his work helping farmers secure funds through grant programs, sees often and will require extra work to straighten out before producers receive their payments.
“It’s usually a result of too many projects and not enough contractors. So, we will see payments that don’t line up with bills – and it’s hard to get a claim on something that doesn’t make sense. Pay attention to details or else things are ineligible.”
Group quota holdings.
For producers with both layers and broilers, for example, the incentive can be grouped towards a single project, whether a new barn build or a renovation, for example.
“It’s really just about taking your time and working through it. These programs are supposed to be easy for a farmer to go in and go through the process,” he adds. “With PEFIP, if they give you a denial, they’ll tell you why and then you can ask questions.”
For farmers who don’t have the time or inclination to work through a grant application process themselves, it’s a service Giret now offers through a company he founded in 2016 after his own first unsuccessful attempts at obtaining grant funding.
More information about PEFIP, project eligibility and how to apply for funds is available at: agriculture.canada.ca/en/agricultural-programs-and-services/poultry-and-egg-farm-investment-program.
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