Speech for Minister Bibeau, Canadian Federation of Agriculture - Annual General Meeting


March 2, 2022, 12:45 pm

Thank you, Mary.

Hello everyone.

Hello to farmers and other industry leaders from across the country.

It’s great to be together once again – in person.

For close to 90 years, CFA has been a strong voice for the farmers who feed Canada -- and the world.

And that voice is needed today – more than ever.

Mary, a special thanks to you.

It was great to see that your parents -- John and Hazel -- received the Order of Canada for their contributions to agriculture and our country.

CFA’s conference theme certainly speaks to the challenges we have faced of over the past two years: finding sustainable solutions in uncertain times.

As we all know, it’s been a very challenging time for Canadian farmers, with a global pandemic, as well as the droughts, and floods, in Western Canada.

In our short time together today, I want to outline our Government’s measures to help farmers meet these challenges.

At the same time, I also want to look at the longer term.

Last November, ministers of agriculture from across Canada agreed on the Guelph Statement.

It is our shared vision to ensure Canada remains a world leader in innovative and sustainable agriculture and food production.

As you know, my vision of sustainability includes environmental sustainability – of course.

But it also includes social sustainability and economic sustainability as well.

By social sustainability, I mean that we absolutely must pay attention to the human side of our industry.

Labour is a major part of my mandate letter from the Prime Minister.

I will work with my Cabinet colleagues, along with governments and industry, to develop an agricultural labour strategy.

We will address short-term pressures and advance long-term solutions for farmers and food processors.

I encourage CFA to engage in this process as part of efforts to develop a national workforce strategy for the sector.

It must be a team effort.

International workers will remain critical for the sector.

So I will continue to work hard to support the safe and timely arrival of Temporary Foreign Workers this year -- and into the future.

Employers also have a key role to play, including in providing a competitive work environment.

Diversity also offers great opportunities. We need everybody at the table.

Today, more than ever, women are taking leadership roles on farms, in science labs, and in industry and government organizations.

Over the past few months, we have welcomed the first woman to chair the Canadian Dairy Commission – Jennifer Hayes – and another as Chief Veterinary Officer of Canada, Dr. Mary-Jane Ireland.

These pioneers join Jane Halford, Chair of the board at Farm Credit Canada – and your president Mary Robinson.

We also need to make space for youth and other under-represented groups.

Last week, I put out the call for new members to join our Canadian Agricultural Youth Council.

Over the past two years, we have had some passionate discussions around the table on a number of important issues impacting the sector…

…such as sustainable farming and increasing agriculture awareness for Canadians.

The Council is an opportunity for young people to shape the policy and programs that will have a direct impact on their future in the sector – as they did for the AgriCommunication Program.

We are now looking for 14 new young people to join us on the council. If you are between the ages of 18 and 30, I urge you to consider taking on this challenge.

We also need to break the taboos around mental health. With the challenges that you have faced, with the nature of your work which is often solitary – I know that there are times that you feel at the end of your strength.

There are resources available if you are not doing well. To be strong, is also to ask for help when you need it. Let’s continue to break the taboo of mental health.

As well as the social element – a central pillar of sustainability is the environment.

With the recent floods in British Columbia, as well as the severe drought across Western Canada…

We need to provide support quickly and there’s no doubt that we also need to double down on our efforts to improve our resilience to the effects of climate change.

We know that immediate challenges remain for farmers across the West.

That’s why we worked with the provinces to deliver over $1 billion under AgriRecovery and Disaster Financial Assistance to help producers suffering from the droughts and floods.

Mary -- I want to thank you and CFA for reaching out to your neighbours in need through the Hay West initiative.

I’m pleased that our Government is able to provide $4 million to help CFA with the costs of transporting hay under the program.

We need to respond – and we are responding --  to catastrophes now -- but we must also look to the long-term.

Environmental sustainability in agriculture is everyone’s responsibility – including governments, stakeholders and industry.

This is what consumers are asking for, here and around the world.

Right across Canada, farmers are protecting the health of their soils, of our water and our biodiversity, with practices such as:

  • reduced tillage;
  • pasture rotations; and
  • conservation of wetlands.

We are there to support you in these efforts, which are essential in the fight against climate change.

Over the past year, our Government has launched over half a billion dollars in new programming to help farmers adopt sustainable practices and clean technologies.

That includes the second-generation of Living Labs, backed by a federal investment of $185 million over 10 years.

These collaborative research projects are already doing great work across the country.

For instance, in Manitoba, the Swan Lake First Nations is working with researchers to store water on the farm to prevent nutrient runoff.

And to help farmers take immediate action to reduce emissions, we launched the On-Farm Climate Action Fund.

Last week, I announced the 12 agricultural organizations across Canada, who will deliver $182.7 million in direct financial incentives for the adoption of beneficial practices, such as:

  • cover cropping;
  • nitrogen management; and
  • rotational grazing.

Advancing sustainability in the sector takes time, resources, commitment and ingenuity…

…and -- yes -- additional resources.

That’s why we launched the Agricultural Clean Technology program…

…to help farmers and agri-businesses invest in new technologies that enhance environmental sustainability and reduce emissions.

Sixty projects have already been approved across Canada under the first wave of the program.

Producers such as Bryce Wendland, a grain farmer from Saskatchewan, received funding to install a new high-efficiency grain dryer.

And in Nova Scotia, the Bokma family was able to install new solar panels to provide power for their dairy farm.

In communities across the country, we’re supporting farmers for today…

…and working together to keep our agriculture sector strong and sustainable for generations to come.

We know that a healthy environment and a healthy economy -- go together.

Agriculture is a powerful driver of our economy and our rural regions.

Despite the challenges of 2021, Canadian farmers worked hard to ensure our that agricultural sector remains a strong economic engine of our country.

Farmers are helping Canada to build back better.

And they do that by helping Canada to remain a global leader in sustainable and innovative agriculture.

That way, producers can capitalize on the new market opportunities that are opening up for sustainable foods.

Here at home, farmers need strong business risk management programs to keep their operations competitive and growing.

I know BRM is a priority for CFA.

The risk profile of Canadian agriculture has changed -- and our programs need to reflect that change.

We’ve taken an important first step by eliminating the reference margin limit from AgriStability.

We are also committed to restoring the compensation rate to 80 per cent, with the support of the provinces.

At the same time, we are focussed on long-term reforms to BRM.

Along with provincial ministers, we are just beginning consultations for the next five-year agricultural policy framework, which starts in 2023.

Through that consultation process, we will look at longer-term changes to BRM.

If we are going to ask producers to lead the relaunch of our economy, we need strong business risk management programs.

We have also committed nearly $2.7 billion to help our dairy, poultry and egg producers manage the impact of our trade agreements with Europe and the Trans-Pacific zone.

We will soon announce the program for dairy, chicken and egg processors, with total funding of $292.5 million.

As promised, we will move forward on full and fair compensation for our agreement with the United States and Mexico and the details will be announced in the first year of this mandate.

As we look ahead to a strong future for our sector, we know that there are major challenges to overcome first.

I remain absolutely committed to restoring trade of PEI potatoes with the United States -- and supporting our producers. 

We have restored access to Puerto Rico, which is a good first step, and provided $28 million in support for diversion.  

At the same time, it is heartbreaking for producers having to destroy part of their hard work.

We will continue to reinforce our science-based management system and work with industry to ensure the sector is resilient and our producers thrive.

Animal diseases are also closely monitored. A commercial poultry farm in Nova Scotia was touched by avian flu and we also are not immune to African swine fever.

Working closely with the provinces and the industry, we continue to do everything we can to prevent the disease from entering into Canada and to be ready if it ever does. Farmers also have the responsibility to apply strong phytosanitary measures.

We will also continue to address ongoing pressures on the supply chain and food availability, which is farmers’ lifeline to growth and prosperity.

The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is expected to put even more pressure on our supply chain and to contribute to increases in the world prices for grains and oilseeds. This could lead to food security issues in countries in the Middle East and Africa.

Canada as a net exporter of key commodity crops could play a role in supplying these regions depending on existing stocks and demand.

On another hand, we can expect the input cost to increase, including energy and fertilizers. We continue to monitor the situation very closely and work with the sector to limit the impacts on farmers.

A month ago, the Minister of Transport held a Supply Chain Summit, along with a number of key ministers and stakeholders.

We had an excellent discussion, with some great ideas on ways to keep the supply chain moving.

We are working hard with industry to address these challenges, while positioning the sector for a bright future.

Over the past two years, Canadian agricultural producers and processors have shown tremendous resilience and adaptability in the face of severe pressures.

Last year, in the middle of a pandemic, our agriculture and food exports hit a new record of over $82 billion.

So we’ve already exceeded our target of $75 billion by 2025.

That’s a testament to the great work of our farmers and food processors, working with Government.

As I mentioned, Canada’s ministers of agriculture are now beginning to shape the next five-year policy framework of agriculture.

The framework will help our farmers and agri-food processors lead the world in sustainable agriculture -- and keep a step ahead of the competition.

I look forward to working with CFA to ensure that the next framework addresses the priorities of Canadian farmers.

So thanks again to Mary and the team

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