Ottawa has put out a call for bids for marketing professionals interested in heading up a national Buy Canadian Promotion Campaign to better connect Canadians with our domestic food and agriculture
By Jackie Clark
The federal government is moving ahead with plans for a national media campaign to promote pride and confidence in Canadian agriculture. “The Buy Canadian Promotion Campaign will be a coordinated national approach led by AAFC,” and aim to grow public trust, increase transparency, and promote Canadian products to domestic consumers, according to a Jan 17th request for proposal.
The 2019 federal budget committed $25 million over five years “to develop a national approach to better connect Canadians with and instill pride in Canada’s food system and its agriculture,” the request for proposal said.
The federal government’s “goals of helping to increase confidence and bring more transparency and better understanding to how food is produced in Canada are fantastic,” Mary Robinson, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), told Farms.com.
Those who work in the agricultural industry understand how safe our food is.
“Canadians should be proud of that,” and know that we are “spoiled for choice when it comes to our food,” Robinson said.
“We are seeing people having a growing interest in food,” she added. However, the general population tends to be disconnected from knowledge of how their food is grown.
91 per cent of Canadians reported to know very little or nothing about agriculture, and three in every five Canadians said they wanted to learn more about how food is produced, according to a Nov. 2019 study by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity.
“I think in general, closing that knowledge gap’s really going help Canadians understand the high standards that domestic producers already meet,” Robinson said.
It is important to get an accurate depiction of the industry out to consumers.
“They get a lot of conflicting information,” and misinformation and lack of understanding can really damage an industry, she said.
In Canada we may be missing out on opportunities to advance our agricultural sector because of misinformation or lack of understanding.
Hopefully, through this campaign we’ll see “people making more science-based choices, more informed choices, and being able to say with confidence that we have very high standards. Not only are we doing really well today, but there’s a lot of investment to continue to raise the bar on how we produce food,” Robinson said.
It is sometimes difficult for famers to get their message out themselves.
“Farmers are price-takers; they have no opportunity to influence the price they’re paid. It’s difficult for farmers because we’re constantly seeing the expectations raised,” by consumers and industry, Robinson explained.
It is a challenge to continue to be profitable with rising standards and no ability to ask buyers to pay more, she added.
It would help consumers “to more easily be able to identify products” and buy them because they know the goods are safe and coming from hard-working Canadian producers.
“I want people to be able to look at Canadian products and have confidence and pride,” she said.
It’ll be exciting to see what advertising and marketing experts can come up with to best showcase the ag industry, Robinson said.
“I think it’s exciting, and I think it’s a step in the right direction and I hope we see more,” she added. “CFA has been a strong supporter of a national food strategy … not only do we need to have a better connection with consumers, but we also need a holistic approach from government.”
She explained that a national agricultural strategy is needed throughout government ministries to address industry challenges.
“We don’t simply deal with agriculture alone. Our sector touches on health, environment, labour, finance, so we were looking for a much more holistic approach to coming up with a strategy that would best position our beautiful natural resource we have in agriculture to really succeed,” Robinson explained.
“We also wanted provincial government engagement in that as well,” she added.
Alongside this national message to promote agriculture to Canadian consumers, CFA would like to see calls to action in mandate letters to other federal ministries to participate in a national agricultural strategy. An integrated governmental agricultural strategy could allow ministries to collaborate to address major needs in ag, such as modernizing the Business Risk Management programs, addressing labour needs, and better connecting agriculture with carbon sequestration and climate change mitigation, said Robinson.
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