The Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (FPT) Ministers of Agriculture concluded their two-day annual meeting in Quebec City today, co-chaired by Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for Quebec. The Ministers reiterated their commitment to help Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector seize new opportunities, and tackle important challenges to ensure businesses prosper and create economic growth.
Given the critical importance of exports to Canadian farmers and processors, the Ministers were unanimous in their support of international trade that is based on trade rules and science. Ministers agreed to continue to work together to take advantage of new trade agreements with key markets. Ministers discussed the current trade challenges facing industry, particularly the canola, pork and beef sectors, as well as durum wheat, pulses and soy, and recognized the need for urgent resolution and to work with the sector to support industry’s sustainability, profitability and growth.
In support of Canada’s supply management system, Ministers reiterated the importance of providing compensation to the supply-managed sectors in a full and fair way in response to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The federal government is taking the appropriate steps to announce details as soon as possible, to ensure that these industries are well positioned to thrive.
The Ministers acknowledged that the growing shortage of labour makes it difficult for agricultural businesses to operate and expand, despite their recruitment activities. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) is a tool used by industry to access much needed labour resources. The Ministers reviewed sector concerns with the program and discussed the progress made. The Ministers emphasized the importance of finding solutions to immediate challenges agriculture and agri-food employers are encountering when recruiting workers through the TFWP, including challenges associated with administrative burden and processing delays. They look forward to continued engagement with Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) on short-term administrative changes to be implemented in a timely fashion. Provinces and territories affirmed the urgency of obtaining short-term administrative changes, acknowledging that labour is a multi-dimensional issue requiring action at all levels of government.
The Ministers underlined that business risk management programs are essential in helping farmers address risks, such as natural disasters, weather events, severe loss or market volatility, acknowledging program challenges raised by industry. The Ministers discussed adjustments that could improve existing programs to address the needs of producers and complement private sector tools. The Ministers directed officials to return with a set of proposed improvements to AgriStability for the Ministers’ consideration before year end. The Ministers committed to working with the industry to promote a modern and competitive sector. The collaboration depends heavily on the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, which is now in its second year and represents a five-year $3 billion investment by the governments to strengthen and grow Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector. In 2018-2019, governments invested close to $346 million in FPT cost-shared programming and $79 million in federal programs to benefit the sector. The Ministers noted the significant progress made to date under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership and will begin work on the next policy framework.
The Ministers highlighted their commitment to building a diverse agriculture sector by encouraging the full participation of youth, women and Indigenous Peoples. The Ministers welcomed a panel of young farmers, who shared their views on a range of topics from technology, to business management, to mental health.
The Ministers agreed to continue collaborating with industry representatives on a pan-Canadian action plan and implementing the plan to help proactively mitigate the potential impacts of African swine fever (ASF). Continued efforts in preparedness planning, biosecurity for small-scale farms and the strategic management of wild pigs were part of the discussion. The Ministers heard an update on the Animal Health Canada initiative and agreed to continue this work.
The Ministers also recognized the need to reduce regulatory red tape, and to put in place effective and responsive regulations that support innovation, growth and competitiveness, and protect health and environment. They endorsed a set of regulatory guiding principles, and committed to continuing their focus on traceability and surveillance activities.
The Ministers agreed to build on the progress made at the meeting over the upcoming year. The next annual meeting of FPT Ministers is in Guelph, Ontario, in July 2020.
“The future is full of promise for Canada’s agriculture and agri-food industry. We have the competitive advantages to sustainably supply the Canadian market and the world’s growing population with our high-quality products. A strong federal-provincial-territorial partnership will help ensure Canadian farmers and food processors are well positioned to meet the important challenges and pursue opportunities for continued success at home and abroad.”
—The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
“The agri-food sector is booming, and we are responsible for ensuring that our farmers and food processors benefit from all of the opportunities it offers. This meeting gave me the opportunity to see that a number of other provinces are facing the same issues we are, to varying degrees. It was agreed that it is important to urgently restore access to all our pork and beef export markets and to work together to ensure the growth and prosperity of the sector. I also reiterated the importance of fully compensating supply-managed producers who made sacrifices leading to the signing of various trade agreements. Finally, the provinces and territories agreed that the federal government must urgently make the administrative changes requested in order to respond to the labour issues being faced by our businesses.”
—André Lamontagne, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for Quebec.