The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau discusses the future of the agriculture and agri-food sector — and how Canada is uniquely positioned to meet the ever-growing global demand for food.
Where do you see the future of the agriculture and agri-food sector headed?
The COVID-19 crisis and Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine have both underscored just how essential the sector and its workforce are to our way of life and our economy — supplying communities and families with safe and high-quality food; creating jobs in every part of the country; driving innovation and developing new technologies; and strengthening global food security.
This is Canada’s unique moment to feed Canadians and the world through global leadership and vision, collaboration, and support for the sector. We’re talking about an economic engine that already drives $135 billion of our GDP, one-in-eight jobs, and over $82 billion of our exports. Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry is poised to lead our nation on the road to economic recovery. Post-COVID-19, the sector will have a more vital role to play than ever.
As the global market for agri-food products continues to expand, why is Canada uniquely positioned to seize opportunities within the industry?
Global demand for food is growing. Canada enjoys a number of competitive advantages to help us meet that demand. We have a highly-productive and skilled sector, and our producers are dedicated to innovation. We also have an ambitious trade agenda through agreements that give Canadian farmers a competitive edge in over 60 percent of the global economy.
That’s a winning combination, and it’s why our agriculture and food exports keep hitting new records every year. To keep that growth curve strong, our Government is making historic investments in innovation and sustainability — for example, new crop varieties that are resilient to climate change, and new technologies to help Canada continue to be global leaders in sustainable agriculture.
What challenges does Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector face and what are we doing to tackle them?
Over the past two years, a global pandemic, extreme drought and flooding in Western Canada, Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, and avian influenza — have all caused pressures on Canadian farmers. While delivering the urgent financial assistance they need, our Government continues to make strategic investments to help Canadian farmers be sustainable for the long term — economically, environmentally, and socially.
We’re investing $1.5 billion to help farmers and processors reduce their environmental footprint and strengthen their resilience to climate change through sustainable practices and technologies such as biomass energy, precision agriculture, and cover cropping. We’re also improving the Temporary Foreign Worker program to help farm and food employers get the labour they need and keep our food supply strong, while increasing protections for workers. We’re also developing an Agricultural Labour Strategy with government partners and industry to put us in a better position to address short-term pressures and advance long-term solutions to help farmers and food processors get the labour and skills they need.
To secure Canada’s future as a global leader in sustainable food production, I’m working with my provincial and territorial colleagues as well as industry to finalize the next five-year policy framework for agriculture, which begins this coming April.
As we head into summer, how can Canadians enjoy and support their local food systems?
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having a reliable, high-quality domestic food supply and more Canadians than ever turned to local foods.
Our Government launched Canada’s first-ever food policy, to help build a healthier, more sustainable — and local — food system for Canada. The Agri-Communication Program was created as part of this Policy to support activities which recognize the contributions of farmers and the food industry, which are helping to strengthen public trust and inform Canadians about the origin of the foods they eat.
Canada’s food systems, including Indigenous food systems, are integral to the well-being of communities across the country. Collaboration was a key theme highlighted throughout Canada’s participation in the UN Food Systems Summit, and is central to the Food Policy for Canada’s vision and priority outcomes.
When consumers choose to eat local, they are supporting specialty markets and local supply chains for small and medium-sized farms and businesses. So, when you’re planning your picnics and family get-togethers this summer, remember to support local!
Support local this summer.