The strength of our farmers and our food supply chain is something we Canadians too often take for granted. Many of us are fortunately accustomed to having our grocery shelves stocked with food at some of the most affordable prices in the world.
Our food system, however, is a bit like a duck: we notice it glides serenely above the surface, but its legs are paddling like hell underneath.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers have overcome huge challenges to keep the system running smoothly.
While Canadians may not witness the full extent of the work that goes into keeping their grocery shelves stocked, they certainly trust and appreciate the work farmers do.
Polls consistently rank farmers as one of the most trustworthy professions in the country.
Indeed, farmers are pillars of our rural communities and drivers of our economy in Canada.
Since our Liberal Government took office, we have set an ambitious agenda to grow Canada’s agriculture sector, by providing farmers the support they need.
In a world that is experiencing more volatility – in both trade and climate – Canadian farmers are well positioned to meet the growing demand for high-quality food both at home and abroad.
This year, the agriculture sector is expected to contribute $140 billion to our country’s economy – and that number is rising. Because of our trade agreements, Canada has preferential access to two thirds of the global market, and already our food exports are up 8% compared to last year.
Our ambitions hinge on supporting farmers on both sides of the equation of Canadian agriculture.
On one hand, we must support our export-oriented farm sector, like fruit, vegetable, pork, beef, and grain farmers so they have the tools they need to properly manage risk and grow their sales in markets at home and abroad. On the other hand, we must protect and support the poultry, dairy, and egg farmers who work within Canada’s supply management system.
It is not an either-or equation.
Recently, our Government made major advances for both groups of farmers.
For farmers in the export-oriented part of the sector, we are proposing to improve the key farmer income-insurance program, called AgriStability, so that it pays 50% more to farmers every year. That works out to about an extra $170M in added annual support. But to move forward with this proposal, we need the provinces to partner with us and agree to contribute their 40% share. We are hoping to achieve this soon. Improving AgriStability will plug a hole in the financial safety net that farmers need to manage the risks associated with their line of work.
For farmers under supply management, we are delivering on our promise to fully and fairly compensate them for the concessions made in trade deals with Europe and Pacific rim countries. For dairy farmers, we are delivering $1.75 billion in a condensed schedule of four years, instead of eight. For poultry and egg farmers, a sum of $691 million will go towards the innovation and market development programs that they requested. Delivering this compensation is not only fair – it will also help ensure that family farms remain strong and stable for generations to come.
In the late 1960s, the average Canadian family spent about 22 percent of its take-home income on food. Today, that number is less than ten percent, one of the lowest figures in the world.
By delivering the support farmers need to grow and succeed, we are helping farmers deliver for Canadians.
Hon. Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada