Industry leaders boost local producers on Canada Agriculture Day

A farmer harvests a crop south of Prince Albert. – Herald file photo.

From coast to coast, Canadians raised a fork in tribute to the country’s agriculture sector as part of the fourth annual Canada Agriculture Day on Feb. 11.

Organizers said they wanted to strengthen the relationship between consumers and producers with this year’s campaign. By the end of the day, they were confident the message got through to their fellow Canadians.

“The appetite for this kind of celebration grows every year,” said Debbie Bailey, a spokesperson for Agriculture More Than Ever, one of the driving forces behind this year’s event. “It’s heartwarming to see the level of engagement and celebration from Canadians across the country.”

Agriculture More Than Ever works throughout the year to promote Canada’s agriculture sector, but Bailey said there’s tremendous value in having a day dedicated to it. She’s seeing more and more interest among Canadians who want to learn more about where their food comes from and how it gets to their table.

She also said the day helps boost participation, though events like Farm Credit Canada’s Young Farmers Summit in Alberta, and Ag in the Classroom’s “engAGe” event in Vancouver.

“Food is a great connector for all of us,” Bailey said. “Canadians are proud of the people who grow and process their food, and they are confident we have the safest most affordable food in the world.”

Provincially, Saskatchewan agriculture minister David Marit used the occasion to tout Saskatchewan ag products, and promote the government’s goals for future growth.

Speaking from Bangladesh, where he was taking part in the second day of a trade summit, Marit said they want to increase crop production to 45 million tonnes and livestock receipts to $3 billion over the next decade. He also wants to see Saskatchewan’s agricultural exports grown to $20 billion, and increase agriculture value added revenue to $10 billion while delivering on the province’s climate change strategy.

“I believe our growth plan goals are ambitious, but achievable,” Marit said in a pre-taped message. “The government of Saskatchewan will continue to promote the quality and sustainability of Saskatchewan’s agriculture exports.”

Marit also promised the provincial government would boost agriculture research investment, like the $11 million invested in crop research and $8 million for livestock and 4-H projects. Both of those funding contributions are in partnership with the federal government.

“These investments help ensure the future of the agriculture industry remains bright and strong,” he said.

Federal agriculture and agri-food minister Marie-Claude Bibeau echoed those sentiments while delivering the keynote address to a gathering of agriculture industry leaders and youth in Ottawa.

Bibeau said the federal government plans to increase agriculture exports to $75 billion by 2025, while partnering with provincial governments to improve risk management programs for farmers affected by natural disasters, weather events, severe loss and market volatility. She also touted the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year $3 billion contribution from federal, provincial and territorial governments, and promised more partnerships to support the mental health of farmers, ranchers and producers.

“Canadian farmers work hard to feed us. Their resilience, their ability to innovate, their respect for the environment, the well-being of animals and their community are an endless source of inspiration for me,” Bibeau said in a media release. “These women and men deserve our greatest appreciation.”

Farm Credit Canada (FCC) used Agriculture Day to promote local food close to home. The FCC created a video campaign to help consumers understand just how much food comes from Canadian producers, while also highlighting the sectors’ safety, diversity and affordability.

“Many consumers would be surprised to learn that the safest and highest-quality food is grown only a few kilometers from the city where they live, or processed and distributed in a plant that employs their friends and neighbours,” FCC spokesperson Marty Seymour said in a media release.

Seymour oversaw the FCC’s involvement in Canada’s Agriculture Day this year. He said there’s a “growing appetite” among Canadians to learn about where their food comes from, and that’s good for local economies.

“There’s actually only one degree of separation between consumers and the people who produce their food, but in our fast-paced urban environments, we sometimes lose sight of that fact,” he said.

Roughly one in eight Canadians are employed in Canada’s agriculture sector. The sector contributed more than $143 billion towards Canada’s GDP in 2018.