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Looking ahead with optimism for agriculture in 2020

Jan 08, 2020
 
By MARIE-CLAUDE BIBEAU
 
Last year was particularly difficult for Canadian agricultural producers. There were poor seeding conditions in the spring, and the fall was even worse for harvest. China closed its market to our meats for just over four months and we are still working hard to regain full access for our high-quality canola seed. As if that wasn’t enough, rail transport was upset by a strike that stalled shipments.
 
Despite these challenges, I look ahead to 2020 with a lot of optimism. The mandate letter that I received from Prime Minister Trudeau underscores our strong ambitions for the sector, which drives one in eight jobs in Canada and is the pillar of vitality in communities across Canada.
 
We are aiming to boost our agri-food exports from $66 billion in 2018 to $75 billion in 2025. To get there, we have concluded agreements with our key trading partners in North America, Europe and the Pacific region, which give our Canadian producers preferential access to 1.5 billion consumers. In collaboration with our partners within the federal government, along with the provinces and territories, and stakeholders from the different industry sectors, I am determined to ensure that we get the most from each of these agreements.
 
We are beginning to enjoy the fruits of these trade agreements. For example, we have seen an increase of 69 per cent in beef exports to Japan, worth $123 million; and our agri-food exports to the European Union have increased 13 per cent, worth $273 million. And this is only the beginning. We will pull out all the stops to give our Canadian producers maximum benefit from these opportunities.
 
I obviously can’t recognize the opportunities that these agreements are opening up, without acknowledging that our milk, poultry and egg producers and processors have lost parts of their market under supply management. That’s why they will be compensated fully and fairly. Milk producers have already begun to receive the first installment. I know how important the supply management system is to the viability of our family farms and the vitality of our rural communities across Canada, and we are all fully committed to protecting it. I’m eager to work together to develop a vision for an innovative and ambitious future for these industries.
 
To drive the growth of Canadian agriculture and agri-food, we are working harder than ever, not only to open new markets, but to help to diversify Canadian agricultural products even more. That is why we are making historic investments in research, science and innovation. It’s essential that our producers and processors have the best practices and technologies to maximize efficiency and care for the environment. 
 
Collaboration is key to the growth of the sector and the prosperity of our farms, and federal and provincial and territorial Ministers remain fully united in their commitment to support farmers. We recently agreed to improvements to the AgriStability program, which helps farmers who experience significant income declines. We understand that the risks have changed, especially when it comes to climate and international trade, and that is why we are committed to improving the business risk management programs.
 
The implementation of the Food Policy for Canada is also one of my core priorities for the coming year. By strengthening the food system across the country, we will work hard to help all Canadians access the healthy food they need.
 
Perhaps because I am the first woman to serve as Canadian agriculture minister, I place a particularly high priority on the role of women in the sector, and I am committed to helping young people to make their voices heard and to take on leadership roles. Youth and women need the proper tools and support to get started in their businesses, and to see the potential for a rewarding career in agriculture. That is why we will make it easier for farm families to transfer the farm from one generation to the next. 
 
I understand the pressures faced by producers, along with higher levels of stress, and I am committed to doing everything in my power to ensure they have a future full of promise for them and for the coming generations.
 
Canadian farmers work hard to feed us. Their resilience, their ability to innovate and their respect for the environment, animal welfare and their community are an endless source of inspiration for me. These women and men deserve our greatest respect.