Pronovost report, 10 years later

Etienne Plamondon Emond
Special Collaboration

March 17, 2018

Rapport Pronovost, 10 ans plus tard

Photo: iStock
Once the Pronovost report made public, he government withdrew and most of its recommendations were not implemented.

This text is part of a special booklet.

Ten years ago, the Pronovost report on the future of agriculture and agri-food has been made public. The answers to most of its recommendations are still awaited.

The ” disappointment “. This is what it feels like as a staff, Jean Pronovost, nearly 10 years after the unveiling of the report, titled” Agriculture and agrifood : securing and building the future, closely associated with his name. In 2006, a government decree had launched the Commission on the future of agriculture and agri-food in quebec (PROVINCE). Jean Pronovost was the president. With a budget of over 3 million, an extensive consultation process has been set in motion in 2007 and moved in 27 cities of the province. More than 800 people had been heard and 770 memories had been collected. January 31, 2008, the Commission delivered its report of over 250 pages to the minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Laurent Lessard, who then held the portfolio that he has taken over since January of 2017.

Once made public, some conclusions have caused a stir, including one that challenged the trade union monopoly in the agricultural sector. The report government withdrew and most of its recommendations were not implemented. Beyond his disappointment, personal, Jean Pronovost believes that in a perspective of public good, his report contained ” a series of observations which we would have had to consider before today.”

Jean Pronovost today continues his advocacy for an agriculture that is multifunctional, diverse and sustainable. In his eyes, quebec agriculture must be diversified to be more resilient. “A good agriculture, this is not an agriculture that is based on a single production, a single production process or a single method of production. It is an agriculture that builds on a variety of production by a variety of establishments, farms, or organizations, who themselves practise a range of approaches to agricultural and appropriate technology. “

The Institute of John Garon, Jean Pronovost is now the chairman, has carried out a follow-up on the 49 recommendations that had been made in the report. A few have received an echo, as the review of the board of directors of la Financière agricole, but they remain the exceptions. Some were partially realized, others seem to have been ignored. For example, the recommendations to treat the agricultural land as a collective patrimony, to prioritize the health issues and the respect of the environment in the agricultural research and increase the flexibility of the system of collective marketing, they had no following. The same goes for the call on the government of Québec to exercise leadership with other governments for the adoption of measures in respect of genetically modified organisms (GMOS).

“We have lost 10 years to put in place the foundations of a new agricultural policy “, laments Guy Debailleul, professor at the Faculty of agricultural sciences and food, Laval University. “The Pronovost report established that there had in the functioning of agriculture, as it has been analyzed at the time, a number of rigidities and that it was necessary to introduce more fluidity in the programs and promote diversity. These guidelines were to pass by and questioning of the policies that prevailed at the time. These findings of rigidity, one can only observe even more apparent today. “

Jean Pronovost notes that since the filing of his report, new issues have arisen or have increased in importance. Climate change, among others, “were known and predicted, but did not have the degree of urgency they may have today,” he says. He also noticed an increased awareness for public health issues. “Today, we feel that the people have changed their habits or are willing to change it even more deeply about the food,” he observes. The variety of what they consume, as well as the issues of safety and health associated with what they consume, what are factors that weigh more heavily in the balance. “

Marcel Groleau, president of the Union of agricultural producers, considers for its part that the situation of the agricultural sector has improved in Quebec since the filing of the report of the PROVINCE. It takes to evidence the number of agricultural enterprises in Quebec holding an organic certification, amounting to 1547 according to the most recent figures from the Conseil des appellations réservées et des termes valorisants (CARTV). “On some of the elements, the UPA had agreed on a policy to develop local sourcing, local markets, food sovereignty,” said Marcel Groleau. However, the UPA has expressed at the time his disagreement with several of the report’s recommendations Pronovost. In many cases, it maintains its positions. In addition to the question of the plurality of association, it is opposed to a revision of the programme d’assurance stabilisation des revenus agricoles (ASRA). The Pronovost report suggested to gradually replace them by a universal program linked to the specific features of the environment. The UPA is also opposed to the amendments to the Act respecting the marketing of agricultural products, fishing and food, which were proposed in the document. “This was not a good idea. The law today serves very well the province of Quebec “, the judge president of the UPA, citing the success of the maple industry and pork.

Trade union monopoly : an apple of discord

During the unveiling of the Pronovost report in 2008, the recommendation that has caused the most debate in the public space has undoubtedly been the one that asked for the recognition of a plurality of professional associations in agriculture in Quebec. “It would not have had to have this recommendation on the accreditation of association, considers the president of the UPA), Marcel Groleau. This has diverted the attention of the report and prevented that there is a real approach on the other recommendations in the report. “

When asked ten years later to the subject of this recommendation, Jean Pronovost persist and sign. “I still think it’s relevant,” he says. He wished, however, to stress that it has sometimes been misinterpreted. “The commission that I chaired was not in the least, but it is really not at all, against the agricultural syndicalism “, he says. He points out that, historically, the approach so far has allowed us to improve the wage conditions of farmers, to protect them against price fluctuations and to ensure a relative stability in farm incomes. “Now, farmers take this for granted, said Jean Pronovost. I understand, but they take it so much for granted that change in agriculture, in Quebec, it becomes very difficult. “It adds to the trade union movement agricultural current, limited to a single union,” so that all dissenting voices are discouraged […] It was recommended that there is at least one other union for that discussion to be more open “.

“The Pronovost report suggested terms in a manner that does not enable any association to obtain official accreditation “, says Maxime Laplante, president of the Union paysanne. Indeed, the paper suggested, inter alia, that in order to be recognized, an association must demonstrate to the Régie des marchés agricoles et alimentaires du Québec that it represented a significant number of producers and had a structure of representation in several regions. The Union paysanne, during its creation, has been registered as a professional association to launch a message. In 2016, it is converted to a non-profit organization to seek contributions, donations or grants, since it may not require high costs to its farmers, who are already being forced to pay for the membership of the UPA.