by Chris van den Heuvel
In early April, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) launched the “Producing Prosperity in Canada” campaign – requesting support for the agri-food industry from all political parties leading up to the federal election in October. The campaign focuses on three key benefits that Canadian agriculture provides to all of Canada: economic growth, food security, and environmental stewardship.
This campaign kicked off in Ottawa with a press conference and coincided with CFA’s lobby day on April 9, when the board of directors had more than 50 meetings with government officials from all parties! It was a whirlwind day in which the campaign had great success with around 80 percent of those meetings resulting in officials signing the “producing prosperity pledge,” stating their support for Canadian agriculture.
Each of the three key benefits that the campaign focuses on has a number of associated recommendations proposed by the CFA.
The recommendations associated with economic growth include promoting career opportunities in the sector, working with farmers to manage their risks, improving rural infrastructure, and supporting agri-food market development domestically and abroad.
The agriculture value chain contributes $112 billion toward Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs 2.3 million Canadians. It’s the second-largest sector employer after the government. The agriculture industry offers a wealth of opportunity when it comes to careers. The possibilities are endless.
Oftentimes, people dismiss the agriculture industry because they think it is only primary agriculture, but they are unaware of the possibilities that agriculture has to offer.
Improving rural infrastructure means ensuring we have proper cellphone and internet coverage – something that is a challenge in rural Nova Scotia, and has been discussed at Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture (NSFA) annual meetings.
It’s important that Canada’s risk management programs work for farmers and that agriculture isn’t negatively impacted by trade agreements.
The recommendations associated with food security include the implementation of a national food policy, streamlined access to innovative products, and regulatory leadership.
We have already seen one of these recommendations realized in the latest federal budget, which included $134 million for the Food Policy for Canada.
However, when it comes to trade agreements, industry and government must work together to ensure Canada’s trade agreements are respected and converted into real market access for farmers.
The recommendations associated with environmental stewardship include incentivizing conservation, rewarding historical efforts, and continuing support for climate innovation.
Our climate is ever-changing and it’s vital that we continue work in this area. We would like to see government continue support for research partnerships among farmers, universities, and the private sector.
IN NOVA SCOTIA
On June 6, during a joint executive meeting between the NSFA and the Nova Scotia agriculture department, I presented the Producing Prosperity in Canada campaign to Agriculture Minister Keith Colwell.
Although this campaign targets the federal election and members of the federal government, it’s important to ensure that our provincial agriculture ministers are committed to producing prosperity. Following the presentation, Colwell signed the associated pledge, stating his support for Canadian agriculture.
Thank you to Minister Colwell for signing the pledge.
The campaign’s next major event will be the agriculture leaders debate, to take place before the federal election, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 24 in Ottawa.
We urge all of those in the agriculture industry to get involved this election season. Talk with those who are running for federal nominations in your riding and educate them on the importance of agriculture in Canada. Ensure that they understand the central role that our industry plays in contributing to our economy and society.
Visit www.producingprosperitycanada.ca to find resources, statistics, and key messages to help amplify the campaign’s message. Printable handouts, infographics, and the campaign pledge are all available to be downloaded and printed to help prepare for any meeting you may have with government officials.
If Canadian agriculture communicates clearly, consistently, and with purpose, it will be recognized as a strategic sector that benefits all of Canada with immense potential for growth.
(Chris van den Heuvel grew up on a dairy farm in Skye Glen, N.S. Along with his wife Karen, they are partnered with their son Jordan on a fourth-generation mixed dairy and beef operation in Port Hood, Cape Breton. Managing 160 head of cattle, they grow their own grass silage, corn silage, peas, oats, and barley for feed. Chris van den Heuvel is president of the Inverness/Victoria County Federation of Agriculture, past president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, and currently second vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture.)