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Challenges and Innovation: Exploring Canada’s Agricultural Sector

Honourable Lawrence MacAulay

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in Canada

Mediaplanet chatted with the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in Canada, to learn about how Canada’s agricultural sector contributes to the economy and employment, what challenges the industry is facing, and the latest innovations in the field.  

What are the latest innovations in Canadian agriculture? How is Canada paving the way?

Staying on the cutting edge with new technologies is key to strengthening Canada’s agriculture sector. We’re paving the way by investing in initiatives like the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership (Sustainable CAP), a $3.5-billion program that supports innovation, sustainability, and trade across Canada’s agriculture sector, and our network of 14 living labs from coast to coast, which bring farmers and scientists together to develop new solutions and build climate resilience. Whether it’s using drones and GPS to boost crop yields or adopting renewable energy sources such as biogas and solar panels, these advancements are streamlining farming operations and making the sector more sustainable.

How does Canada’s agricultural sector contribute to the economy?

Canada’s agricultural sector is a key economic driver. It creates job opportunities, supports local businesses, and is a key pillar of so many rural communities in our country. Last year, the sector added over $143 billion to our economy, making up seven per cent of our GDP. We’ve also seen farmers’ revenues from agri-product sales grow 5.6 per cent, reaching a record-high $87.7 billion. As the world’s fifth largest exporter of agri-food, our exports amounted to $92.8 billion last year, and demand for our high-quality products continues to grow. My goal is to continue boosting our exports, open new markets, and create more opportunities for our farmers.

What are the agricultural challenges currently faced in Canada?

Farming is a demanding job with unique challenges. Speaking with folks across Canada, I’ve heard concerns about higher input costs, labour shortages, and the effects of climate change. In recent years, flooding, drought, and forest fires have had a direct impact on producers, and we’ve been working to support their recovery and provide them with some protection against income and production losses through our suite of business risk management programs. Adopting more sustainable practices is also so important, and with programs like the Sustainable CAP, the Agriculture Clean Technology Program, and the On-Farm Climate Action Fund, we’re helping the sector become more resilient.

What role do sustainable agricultural practices play in ensuring food security and mitigating the impacts of climate change?

Consumers care about where their food comes from and the way it gets produced. By helping our farmers innovate and make their operations more sustainable, we can meet the demand for their products here in Canada and around the world. Over the last two years, we’ve invested $1.5 billion in programs to help our farmers reduce their on-farm emissions and grow their operations so we can continue to be a reliable supplier and leading exporter of world-class products like canola, wheat, pulses, beef, and pork.

How does the agricultural sector contribute to employment in Canada? Are there initiatives in place to further promote job opportunities and attract talent?

Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector employs over 2.3 million people, representing about one in nine jobs — from farmers to food processors and other links along our supply chain. We’re working to attract talent, help folks gain experience, and promote job opportunities in the sector through the Youth Employment and Skills Program, the Student Work Placement Program, and AgriTalent. We’re also supporting initiatives like the Canadian Agricultural Youth Council and organizations focused on nurturing youth interest and skills in agriculture, like 4-H and Agriculture in the Classroom Canada, to ensure the continued growth of the sector for generations to come.

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