Mediaplanet: What is the federal government currently doing to promote an innovative Canadian agricultural sector?

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay: Canada’s agriculture and food industry has always been innovation-driven. Building on over a century of discovery, scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada continue to develop food and production methods that are good for our health, our environment, and our economy — from heart-healthy foods, to environmentally friendly livestock production, to natural pest controls.

Government investments are supporting an innovative agriculture and food industry, including $70 million proposed under Budget 2017 in agricultural discovery science and innovation.

Looking ahead, innovation will be a core priority in the $3-billion, five-year, federal-provincial-territorial Canadian Agricultural Partnership, set to launch in April 2018. The Partnership will support the sector in adopting innovative practices to improve agriculture resiliency and productivity.

MP: What is the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, and what can Canadian producers expect from this program?

LM: The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is a five-year, $3-billion investment by federal, provincial, and territorial governments. Under the Partnership, the federal government will invest $1 billion in programs and activities with a focus on growing trade and expanding markets, fostering innovative and sustainable growth in the sector, and supporting a diverse and dynamic sector.
The Partnership puts a new emphasis on inclusive growth — focusing on women, youth and Indigenous communities. It will also target building public trust in Canadian products.

With Georgian Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black (R), U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican Secretary of Agriculture José Calzada Rovirosa joke about eating the Vidalia Onions right out of the bin during a visit to Bland Farms in Glennville, Georgia for trilateral meetings as well as other joint events June 20, 2017. USDA photo by Preston Keres

MP: One of the largest issues facing agriculture globally is figuring out how we can feed a growing population in a sustainable way. What is the federal government doing to promote sustainable agriculture?

LM: As a top-five agriculture and food exporter, Canada can lead the way in sustainably meeting the world’s growing demand for food.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists are developing new crop varieties with built-in disease and drought resistance, and precision farming technologies, to help farmers reduce pesticide and fertilizer use. Under Budget 2017 we will also invest $25 million in clean agricultural technology.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership will support farmers in safeguarding our environment. Canada is also active internationally, supporting greenhouse gas reduction efforts through a $27-million program that helps farmers practice climate-smart agriculture.

MP: NAFTA is a hot topic within the industry right now — how is the federal government working to ensure that these negotiations work for both our nations’ farmers and the overall economy?

LM: NAFTA is a strong driver of growth for the North American agriculture and food industry. Since NAFTA was signed in 1994, North American agriculture and food trade has quadrupled to over $100 billion, supporting millions of good, well-paid jobs across the continent.
I just returned from a very productive trip to Mexico, and will be leaving shortly to meet with farmers in the U.S. It’s very clear from our discussions that Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, along with the agricultural industry, are united in their support of a strong and integrated agriculture and food sector across North America. We support a modernized NAFTA that will continue to be an engine of growth and prosperity for our three nations.

MP: What are the biggest challenges facing Canadian agriculture today? How is the federal government stepping in to address those concerns?

LM: Canadian agriculture faces a number of challenges, from shifting consumer demand to increased global competition, from climate change to non-scientific trade barriers. Our investments under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership will help the sector meet these challenges, capture new growth opportunities in the global marketplace, and reach our target of $75 billion in agriculture and food exports by 2025.

MP: Conversely, what are the biggest successes in Canadian agriculture currently — what can Canadians be proud of?

LM: In a word: innovation. Thanks to advances in science, Canadian agriculture is one of the most innovative and dynamic sectors in our economy, creating jobs, growing our middle class, and helping feed a growing world population sustainably. For example, innovation has helped Canadian beef producers practice climate-smart agriculture, reducing greenhouse emissions by 15 percent per kilo of beef. Science has also helped Canadian farmers introduce more sustainable practices such as the adoption of no-tillage systems. Innovation will continue to be at the heart of Canada’s global agricultural success.