Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Advertising Subscribe Reuse & Permissions
Hill Times Events Hill Times Books Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now

The time is now to position Canada as a global leader in Agri-Food

By Evan Fraser, Rory McAlpine      

The final report of the Finance Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, which was released Feb. 6, highlighted agriculture as one of four economic sectors capable of helping raise incomes and create jobs across the country.

Canada must strive to become the world's second-largest exporter of agricultural products (after the United States) and double our share of world exports in processed food, the authors argue. Photograph courtesy of Gary Csoff

February 16 is Canada’s Agriculture Day; a day to celebrate the food we love and where it comes from, focusing not only on farmers and producers but also on Canada’s food processing sector, our retailers large and small and, of course, consumers.

Although Canada’s Agriculture Day is a new addition to the calendar, it is a timely one. The challenges and opportunities around food and agriculture have never been greater. First, we have global population growth that means 2 billion more mouths will need to be fed over the next generation. Then, there is the rapidly growing Asian middle class who demand higher quality and more resource-intensive food. And, of course, we have to deal with climate change, water scarcity and volatile energy prices.

Southeast Asia, where demand is high and the land is scarce, likely will be looking to import more food during the next 20 years. While this presents a global food security challenge, Canada is set to play an increasingly important role as one of the world’s key breadbaskets.

We have abundant arable land, good supplies of fresh water, stable and well-established markets and political systems, and a strong infrastructure.

Canada is also poised to take advantage of what is being called “the next agri-food revolution” or “Ag. 4.0.” The same technologies that created the internet and that are transforming medicine are now being applied in farmers’ fields and food processing factories. A brave new world is beckoning where artificial intelligence and big data analytics reshape how we produce food and even the kinds of food we consume.

Smart tractors that sense where they are in a field and plant the right seed at the right time with just the right amount of fertilizer are beginning to allow farmers to produce more food with fewer inputs. Robotic milking parlors are monitoring and helping manage the health of individual cows in real time, maintaining health and welfare standards while increasing productivity.

Smart food packaging is extending the shelf life of perishable foods. Innovations around alternative protein supplies and 3-D printing are creating new products for consumers. And genomic tools such as DNA barcoding offer the opportunity to create better systems to control invasive pests, track foodborne ailments, and offer consumers guarantees about the quality and provenance of their food.

Overall, the promise of Ag. 4.0 is more food and safer food produced on less land, with fewer inputs and environmental impacts.

The federal government is aware of this potential. The final report of the Finance Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, which was released Feb. 6, highlighted agriculture as one of four economic sectors capable of helping raise incomes and create jobs across the country.

The report said that agri-food is one of Canada’s largest economic sectors, providing 2.1 million jobs and being responsible for 6.7 per cent of our annual GDP. Showing a 9.5 per cent annual growth rate during the last five years, agri-food companies have outpaced most other sectors of the economy.

Based on this strong economic performance and the global opportunities presented by the rising demand for food, the Advisory Council recommended that the federal government establish a vision for Canada to become “the trusted global leader in safe, nutritious, and sustainable food for the 21st century.” To fulfill this vision, Canada must strive to become the world’s second-largest exporter of agricultural products (after the United States) and double our share of world exports in processed food.

These are ambitious targets, and achieving them will require us to harmonize policies and regulations with our trading partners, invest in infrastructure (especially agri-food data processing, data storage and data analytics), and bring together our agri-food universities, regulators, producer groups, food processors, and retailers.

The timing has never been better to position Canada as a global leader in this important area of international commerce, and, in doing so, create jobs and widespread economic opportunities.

We can provide leadership through a combination of technological sophistication, coordination among strategic stakeholders, and a willingness to engage.

On Canada’s Agriculture Day—and every day—we can show the world that Canada is ready to help tackle the global challenge of feeding our growing population.

More in News

Poor issues management plaguing Trudeau’s team, say strategists

The public relations problems that plagued Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent India trip are part of a pattern of poor issues management that politicos say will dog this government if it doesn’t change course quickly.…

Feds move to do full PS staff survey yearly, not every three years

A comprehensive examination of how public servants feel about their workplaces will now be done yearly, instead of every three years, a move welcomed by union representatives, who say there needs to be meaningful action…

Condemning China’s cheap steel Canada’s best defence against U.S. tariffs, say steel caucus MPs

The Liberals will have to address American fears that Canada is being used as an entry point for cheap Chinese steel flooding the United States market if the government wants the threat of tariffs gone…

Delayed Amazon-like federal procurement system projected to go live in 2019

An online platform intended to speed up and simplify federal procurement is almost two years behind schedule, but now has a planned launch in 2019 following $197-million promised in the latest budget. The funding identified…

Liberals under pressure from all sides to give Davie shipyard work, keep Quebec City seats in 2019

News|By Emily Haws
Quebec Parliamentarians of all stripes are pressuring the Liberal government to stem job losses by giving more work to the Davie shipyard near Quebec City, a potential battleground in the 2019 election. Opposition MPs say…

Unions cautiously optimistic about Treasury Board leading post-Phoenix fix, but worry about more delays

News|By Emily Haws
The two largest public service unions are applauding the decision in the 2018 federal budget to have the Treasury Board lead the search for a Phoenix pay system alternative, but caution the government can’t cut…

Upcoming gun bill ‘scaring the hell out of the Liberal caucus,’ and Trudeau’s response to Harvey’s concerns puts a chill on backbenchers, say Liberals

News|By Abbas Rana
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s angry response to a rural MP's concerns raised at a recent national caucus meeting on the Hill over the government's upcoming gun legislation did not go over well with some Liberal…

CPTPP is in the bag, but Liberals failing to execute on trade with Asia, say top Senator, trade analyst

The federal Liberal government hasn’t done enough to expand trade ties in Asia, say a top Trudeau-appointed Senator and a prominent Ottawa trade analyst, despite signing the CPTPP, an 11-country trade agreement for the Asia-Pacific…

Senators took a pass on votes nearly 200 times since election—a sign of ‘unconvincing’ speakers, says Sen. Cools

Yea, nay, or I won’t say: when it comes to voting in the Upper Chamber, Senators have collectively chosen to abstain from votes 190 times since the last election, about two-and-a-half times per vote. The…


We’re offering 15% off a year-long subscription to the hill times online content.