On November 11, 2021, Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture wrapped up their annual conference by issuing a shared vision via the so-called “Guelph Statement”.
The gist of it is the hope that Canada’s agricultural policy will position producers, processors et al as leaders in sustainable ag capable of working within a competitive global sector.
The Ministers agreed that following the path of sustainable ag, including environmental, social and economical considerations will help shape future policy framework.
The five priority areas for the next framework as agreed upon by the Ministers are:
- climate change and the environment;
- science, research and innovation;
- market development and trade;
- building sector capacity and growth, and
- resiliency and public trust.
The Guelph Statement asserts that "Canada is recognized as a world leader in sustainable agriculture and agri-food production and drives forward to 2028 from a solid foundation of regional strengths and diversity, as well as the strong leadership of the Provinces and Territories, in order to rise to the climate change challenge, to expand new markets and trade while meeting the expectations of consumers, and to feed Canadians and a growing global population."
The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri Food said, “… my provincial and territorial colleagues and I agreed on an ambitious vision that will guide the development of the policy framework to follow the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. We all want to ensure that our agriculture is sustainable and that our farmers and agri-food entrepreneurs succeed. They must be incredibly resilient and innovative in the face of many challenges, including climate change, fluctuations in international trade, and labour shortages. Together, we will invest wisely to grow the sector while protecting our environment, reducing our emissions and safeguarding the well-being of those who ensure our food security.”
The Ministers also agreed to continue to improve business risk management (BRM) programs to make them more timely, equitable, and easier to understand, while continuing to support sector competitiveness and sustainability.
The president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, Mary Robinson, who was at the meetings, voiced concerns saying that the emphasis on reducing emissions should not be at the expense of farmers. "I think the message needs to be that we can't do this at the expense of producing food," she said. "We can't destabilize our food supply systems here, or our economy."
Mitch Rezansoff, Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Agri-Retailers said it supports, in principle, the objectives of the recently concluded Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture meeting in Guelph.
“Critical to expanding Canadian ag policy is the recognition of the current state of the ag industry and advances of the past 20 years. Farmers and supporting industry are best positioned to lead the direction of future investments, research and trade,” explains Rezansoff.
“Climate cycles, environmental impacts, sustainability considerations must be made in Canada with economic and social impact considerations. They cannot be advanced in isolation. The ag industry has demonstrated the capabilities to address GHG’s when a collaborative approach is undertaken with realistic timelines,” he continued.
He said that directives must follow a science-first approach, and noted that involvement of all stakeholders is required—yet without advocate privilege of direction due to favourable opinion of the day.
Rezansoff added: “Canadian farmers must be recognized as medium- to extra large-business. Lifestyle Ideology cannot lead policy. Agriculture has evolved through free market decisions. Changes of focus and specialization, size, investment and resourcing, and best management practices. The evolution has occurred over 100 years. Many have entered and exited utilizing sound business principles.
“Canada is an export nation of raw commodities and processed finished goods. The statement is a driving principle. Policy that diminishes these capabilities is counter-productive,” he said.
He stated that “The pandemic has exposed how logistical disruptions and foreign production consolidation has impacted Canadian agriculture production. Canada is an energy and science and technology rich country."
“Various levels of government must work with the agriculture industry to ensure the realities of feeding our nation and the world can continue to be met,” he concluded.
During the conference, the Ministers revealed that they also discussed and made progress on other issues that could fuel economic recovery and sustainable growth. These other issues included: labour; African swine fever— continuing to ensure it does not enter Canada; Animal Health Canada; trade and market access; regulatory priorities (including interprovincial trade and the Canadian Plant Health Council); retail fees; and mental health.
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Executive Director, CAAR