Canadian agriculture has never been more important than it is today. If there was ever a time to prioritize agriculture and food production in this country, it’s now, in the face of this global food security crisis.
Food security has captured the attention of both Canadians and those around the world in a way it hasn’t for generations. First, it was the global pandemic that put our food supply chain to the test like never before. It was the first time many Canadians had ever witnessed empty shelves at the grocery store, and despite the fact that food was mostly still accessible, it put a much sharper focus on food security.
In the midst of the pandemic and all of the ensuing supply chain challenges, we also witnessed devastating droughts and flooding in key agricultural growing regions here in Canada, which impacted the amount of food and feed farmers could produce. Now we’re faced with the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the enormous pressure it’s putting on the global food supply. And in addition to food shortages, inflation is making the food that is available more expensive than ever.
Highlighting Canadian agriculture
Amidst all this chaos, Canadian agriculture is a bright spot. We have so many advantages that position us to be a global leader in food production. We have a large, arable land base coupled with a relatively small population. We have access to vast natural resources and we have growers who are quick to adopt new technologies and who are second to none in protecting and improving their environment. We’ve built a strong global reputation as a provider of safe, high-quality food. And we have strong research and development capabilities as well as access to a solid talent pool in areas like biotechnology, chemistry, engineering, and artificial intelligence.
Not only can Canada produce safe, sustainable, and affordable food for Canadians, we can and must do the same for others around the world who cannot do it for themselves. With the United Nations’ World Food Programme estimating that the number of people around the world facing acute food insecurity has more than doubled since 2019, it is in fact our moral responsibility.
Prior to the pandemic, there were several reports from both the government and the private sector in Canada that identified agriculture as one of a handful of sectors with significant growth potential for which bold and aggressive action should be taken. While there wasn’t a lot of action to support the hype, this crisis should be a compelling reminder to government of the importance of fuelling the growth of Canadian agriculture.
Creating the conditions for growth
Today, the call for action is clear: we need to produce more food. Given that there isn’t more arable land available to increase production, we need to grow more on existing agricultural land. And we need to do this while at the same time working toward our sustainability goals. Fortunately, productivity and sustainability can be complementary rather than competing priorities.
Creating the conditions for this kind of growth isn’t easy. So many of the challenges that come with growing food are outside of anyone’s control — whether it’s severe weather events or global conflict. That means we need an even sharper focus on the things that are within our control.
As a starting point, we need:
Reliable transportation infrastructure and supply chain investments that build resilience, ensuring agricultural commodities get to market;
Government policy that prioritizes agricultural productivity, which includes supporting farmers’ access to tools and technologies like pesticides, fertilizers, and improved seeds that help them sustainably grow more food using the same amount of land;
Support for stewardship programs like 4R Nutrient Stewardship that help achieve both productivity growth and sustainability objectives;
More free trade agreements with key markets around the world — and a staunch defence against non-tariff trade barriers that limit the trade of agricultural goods;
Greater access to high-speed internet in rural Canada to support the adoption of innovative new technologies on farms;
Reliable access to on-farm labour; and
Modern, agile regulatory systems that serve to both protect people and the environment while also enabling innovation and growth in the sector.
Food security isn’t just an agricultural issue, it’s a societal issue and the government must treat it as such. If we make every effort possible to address the issues that are within our control, it positions Canadian agriculture to be more resilient in the face of all of those unpredictable factors. And this resilience is critical to our ability to grow more food, more efficiently and sustainably, for Canada and the world.
Now is the time to unleash the full potential of Canadian agriculture.