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Planting the Seeds to Our Sustainable Future

Header - Minister Marie-claude Bibeau
Header - Minister Marie-claude Bibeau

Mediaplanet recently connected with Canada’s Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau for her thoughts on the future of sustainable agriculture in Canada.

What comes to mind when you think of the future of our planet and sustainable development? Will the agriculture sector in Canada evolve, and if so, how?

Our biggest challenge for the future is tackling climate change. Farmers know the impacts of floods, droughts, and fires, which are becoming more frequent. On top of that, degraded water and soil health can take a toll on our communities and wildlife.

Currently, agricultural emissions account for 10 percent of emissions in Canada, and they are projected to rise further, driven by growing global demand for food.

Our Government will continue working in partnership with farmers to ensure they remain competitive and that our water, air, and soil are sustainable for generations to come.

We have set ambitious but necessary targets – putting measures in place to help Canada exceed its 2030 emissions targets and set the country on a path towards net zero by 2050.

Luckily, Canadian farmers have a strong environmental record to build on. Over the past century, Canadian agriculture has made tremendous advances in innovation and science. As an example, one can look to the Prairies to see carbon sequestration in action: through adoption of soil conservation practices such as no-till and crop rotations, agricultural lands can provide a natural climate solution by storing carbon in soil as they have done for the past 20 years.

Just as importantly, farmers will also benefit from the economic impacts of adopting those practices on their farms.

The industry will also gain a competitive advantage as a leader in sustainable production, meeting rising demands from our global customers for products with a smaller environmental footprint.

There’s great potential to continue making progress. Together, these efforts will support our vision of Canada as a world leader in sustainable agriculture – environmentally, economically, and socially.

What can Canadians do to directly support our agriculture sector in achieving its sustainability goals?

We will continue supporting farmers and food businesses to help reach our emission reduction targets. To support these goals, much of our Government’s efforts go towards building a sustainable model for food production, which in turn means stable and prosperous businesses.

More and more, everyday Canadians are finding ways to support this movement. From community food banks that are investing in new cold food storage units across Canada, to businesses giving second life to food by-products, to partnerships between potato farmers and scientists to monitor water and soil quality, initiatives like these are helping steer the sector towards a sustainable future.

Closer to home, the three Rs – reducing, reusing, and recycling – go a long way towards reducing food waste. To support this cause, our Government initiated the Food Waste Reduction Challenge to help make the most of the food we have available to us, keep our environment clean, and lower household expenses. 

What misconceptions or “knowledge gaps” are most common on the subject of environmentally conscious agri-food and what it means to eat a sustainable diet?

When it comes to eating sustainably, Canadians have many choices when it comes to shifting to “greener” food options. Canada’s agri-food sector is equipped to provide a range of nutritious foods produced using sustainable methods, from our well-established meat and dairy sectors to the emerging plant-based proteins market.

Canada has also become a global leader in producing plant-based protein alternatives. The prospect of blending high-quality proteins into baked goods, fortified beverages, and meat and egg alternatives is an exciting one for the industry. It shows we can be a leader for both sustainably produced animal- and plant-based proteins – there is a future for both kinds of agriculture.

Speaking of alternative proteins, the team at Enterra Corp. is rising to the challenge of feeding the world in innovative ways. In their facility north of Calgary, they raise black soldier larvae, which is fed 130 tonnes of surplus food from the region – each day! The larvae are then made into nutrient-rich pet food and plant fertilizer. Enterra is a local food hero for making a viable business model out of food-waste reduction, and our Government is here to support them and other entrepreneurs through initiatives like the Food Waste Reduction Challenge.

As it pertains to our future environmental security, what commitments or achievements are you most proud of the Canadian agriculture sector for?

The ongoing environmental performance of our sector is something I’m deeply committed to. On top of funding to help reduce emissions in the agriculture sector and adopt beneficial management practices, our government is investing in nature-based solutions and environmental clean technology: notably, our plan for a Healthy Environment and a Healthy Economy includes the $185-million Natural Climate Solutions for Agriculture Fund and the $165-million Agricultural Clean Tech Program, to name only two investments. As we expand on the groundwork for climate-smart agriculture, it is my hope that the returns will extend far beyond my mandate.

To oversee this, I entrust the next generation to helping ensure our shared environmental security. The Canadian Agricultural Youth Council comes to mind, with dedicated members bringing their valuable experiences from diverse communities across Canada. With more voices at the table, more Canadians will have a say as we continue crafting a serious plan for our future food systems. 

For anyone who wants to look further into the issue of food loss, the Taking Stock report is a good place to start. The portal includes simple tips on how households and consumers can keep their food fresher for longer, as well as initiatives underway to help families cut down on food waste in their everyday lives.

As the portal outlines, partnerships are well underway between governments, non-governmental, and industry organizations on food waste-reduction initiatives. The goal is to make it easy for more Canadians to play their part, whether or not they work in the agriculture sector.

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