Although QFA extends its congratulations to the new incumbant, it also is watching carefully current dialogue conferred by the Senate and some within Canada’s linguistic minority communities who are questionning the validity of the appointment.
This spring, at the end of a lengthy re-evaluation, Health Canada determined that products containing the weed killer glyphosate (Roundup®, Vision®, etc.) pose no hazard to human and environmental health if used according to the directions.
Health Canada’s decision was met with a negative reaction by a number of actors from civil-society actors and people working in environmental protection. They pointed out that glyphosate is classed as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and called for it to be banned. However, even the WHO qualified its conclusion, adding that it is “unlikely that the residues detected in food are a cause of cancer in humans.”
However, Health Canada has countered that the WHO analysis “is a hazard classification and not a health risk assessment. This means that the level of human exposure, which determines the actual risk, was not taken into account.”
One important thing to keep in mind: a ban on glyphosate in Quebec or in Canada would not apply to imported products and would not require special labelling under the current legislation.
The saga surrounding the use of glyphosate is no trivial matter. Pesticide use is a consumer concern. In response to this concern, the government has chosen the route of coercion and slapping anyone caught violating regulations with fines. But is this the best angle of attack? The answer is no.
For several years, the Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA) has been calling for a concerted agro-environmental action plan to guide producers in their efforts to guard against crop pests. Under such a plan, there would be access to specialized plant protection resources for farmers, knowledge transfer, and additional investment in research on ways in which pesticides can be used more effectively and, eventually, replaced.
Farmers don’t use pesticides for their own enjoyment. They do cost a lot of money, after all, and farmers are well aware of the public’s concerns about pesticides. Every year, Quebec’s market gardeners, fruit growers and grain producers sink large sums into centres of expertise to support pesticide research.
As it turns out, the UPA has its own plant protection action plan. The plan is intended to create an environment that is favourable to integrated pest management by emphasizing farmer training, research and development of replacement solutions, the creation of decision-making tools adapted to the needs of agricultural businesses, knowledge transfer, coaching from agricultural advisers, and the promotion of farmers’ efforts and successes in the domain.
Farmers and environmental organizations have the same goal in mind: to produce food without harming the environment. Things may not be progressing as quickly as some people would like, but the agricultural community is indeed working on it. I invite environmental groups to throw their full support behind our repeated demands for a concerted agro-environmental action plan. If we succeed in leveraging the collective organization of farmers, scientific research, knowledge transfer and plant protection expertise, Quebec could become a true leader.
In the opinion of the UPA, the action plan would be a quintessential ingredient in Quebec’s future bio-food policy.
The second round of talks about the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have closed and sources say that Canada has pushed off pressure from the U.S. about American dairy producers gaining more access to Canadian markets.
Canada, the U.S. and Mexico met for a five-day round of negotiations in Mexico City on Sept. 1. President Donald Trump initiated the negotiations in the wake of his now-infamous statement that he wanted “a lot more than tweaking” of the 23-year-old trade agreement.
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said that she was pleased with the progress made at the talks, but that the major points are still undecided.
“I want to reiterate: This is Day 20,” Freeland noted, commenting that the schedule the U.S. has proposed is extremely quick for negotiations of this kind. “This is an extremely accelerated process. This is Day 20 of an accelerated and extremely comprehensive negotiation. We are running fast for (an agreement by) the end of the year.”
Supply management at risk?
Of course, one of the main sticking points in the negotiations will undoubtedly be Canada’s supply-managed industries, chiefly dairy. Canada’s supply-managed dairy system has been under fire from the U.S. for years, with American politicians claiming it violates the very nature of NAFTA and plenty of Canadian economists saying that supply management forces consumers north of the border to pay exorbitant prices for milk and butter.
The dairy sector was excluded from the original NAFTA deal, signed in 1994. Then, as now, Canadian industry officials cited that supply management was a domestic policy, concerned with producing and selling dairy within Canada’s borders.
But some factions of the U.S. dairy industry are not happy that Canadian producers get to profit from price controls under supply management. More recently, U.S. critics have accused Canadians of selling skimmed-off diafiltered milk components for cheese-making. The lower market prices put the pinch on Americans, particularly in the pizza market.
What does Ottawa say?
From Stephen Harper to Justin Trudeau, no Canadian government has promised that it would not make changes to supply management if push came to shove in a NAFTA renegotiation. Federal Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay was no different when asked about the Liberal government’s stance.
“I’m not the official trade negotiator,” MacAulay said, speaking during a meeting of provincial and territorial agriculture ministers in St. John’s. “But without a doubt we will make sure that we have capable trade negotiators in agriculture and in the trade department who will handle these issues very capably.”
Union des producteurs agricoles President Marcel Groleau said he was confident the federal government knew where Canadian dairy farmers stand on the issue of supply management.
“I think the message to the U.S. negotiator is very clear from Canada, I would say more clear this time than in any other negotiation we have had before,” Groleau said.
Groleau, himself a long-time dairy producer, was quick to point out that the U.S. maintains some protectionist policies of agricultural products itself.
“The U.S. also has its own commodities that they’re protecting, like sugar and peanuts,” he said. “We import in Canada eight per cent of our dairy consumption. (The) U.S. imports less than two per cent. So our market is not totally closed.”
While negotiators remain positive about the progress made at the first two rounds of talks, there are still many hurdles to overcome.
The second round began with a threat from Trump to withdraw from NAFTA entirely. On the final day, he announced plans to cancel an amnesty program for young immigrants brought illegally into the U.S. by their parents.
The third round of talks will be done by the end of September, with Canada, the U.S. and Mexico hoping to move swiftly to an agreement by 2018.
Canadians have had their say on what they want from a national food policy. Now, the only question that remains is what Ottawa will do with the tens of thousands of suggestions they’ve received for its long-term visioning project entitled, “A Food Policy for Canada.”
Over the course of the past four months, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has been holding public consultations asking Canadian citizens, agricultural producers, processors and just about anyone who has an opinion about what a nationwide policy on food matters should contain.
The response was so overwhelming that AAFC extended the comment period for its online survey by a month. The response shows that Canadians care about how their food is produced, inspected, shipped and sold.
AAFC states the food policy “will set a long-term vision for the country’s health, environmental, social, and economic goals related to food, while also identifying actions that can be taken in the short-term to improve Canada’s food system.”
Minister of Agriculture Lawrence MacAulay announced the consultations at the Canadian Association for Food Studies Conference in Toronto on May 29. Implementing a national food policy was a Liberal government election promise. When MacAulay was appointed to the cabinet position, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke of the priority of developing the policy in a published mandate letter addressed to the new minister.
Trudeau clearly stated that one of MacAulay’s key tasks would be to “develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country.”
The initial consultations for the food policy focused on four key themes: gaining better access to affordable food; improving health and food safety; conserving soil, water and air; and growing more high-quality food.
Those are things that Canadian agricultural producers have a vested interest in. The federal government has already heard from about 30,000 Canadians through its survey and public consultations.
MacAulay and other industry stakeholders met in Ottawa to hash out further details of the “Food Policy for Canada” on June 22 and 23. An “engagement session” was also held in St. Hyacinthe on Aug. 16.
“The decisions we make as a government, and as individuals, about food have a major impact on not only our health and well-being, but on our environment, our communities, and our economy,” said MacAulay in an official statement following the public consultations. “Conversations like the one we are having today are vital to ensuring the food choices we make are the right ones, while ensuring we meet the growing world demand for high-quality foods produced by our farmers and ranchers.”
A summary report based on the feedback received during the public consultations is due this fall.
The federal government’s food policy consultation focuses on four key themes. Here are a few facts and figures that touch on each of these subjects:
Compiled by Brenda O’Farrell
Source: Government of Canada
Increasing access to affordable food:
– In 2016, Canada ranked 8th out of 113 countries on food affordability, availability, and quality and safety.
– A total of 1.1 million – or 8.3 per cent – of Canadian households experienced food insecurity in 2011-2012. Food security is deemed to exist when all people within a household, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for an active and healthy life.
– 863,492 people used a food bank in Canada in 2016.
– Eight out of 10 provinces saw increased food bank use in 2016. In Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, food bank use increased by more than 17 per cent.
– In 2015, the average Canadian household spent $8,629 on food.
– In 2015, households in Iqaluit and Nunavut spent an average of $14,963 on food.
In the world:
– The world’s population is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, up from 7 billion in 2017.
– In 2015, 795 million people across the globe were considered undernourished.
Improving health and food safety:
– In 2011-2012, 6.9 million Canadians over the age of 20 were diagnosed with hypertension. The prevalence of this disease has been increasing at a rate of 2.8 per cent per year since 2000.
– In 2013, 6 million Canadians – that’s 1 in 4 adults – were deemed to be obese.
– In 2012-2013, 31.4 per cent of Canadian children between the ages of 15 and 17 were overweight or obese.
– Only 11.2 million Canadians – 39.5 per cent of the population – eat fruit and vegetables 5 or more times a day.
– Fruit and vegetable consumption peaked in 2009, when 45.6 per cent of Canadians ate them 5 times per day. That figure has been dropping every year since.
– There are 4 million episodes of food-related illnesses each year in Canada, including 11,600 hospitalizations and 238 deaths.
Conserving soil, water and air:
– A total of 7.2 per cent of Canada’s land base consists of farmland.
– From 1981 to 2011, there has been a 7.6-per-cent increase in soil cover, an indicator of improving soil health.
– In 2011, 35 per cent of farms in Canada had an environmental farm plan, which covered half of all agricultural land in the country. This is a 7-per-cent increase from 2006. Producers with a plan are considered more likely to have adopted a variety of beneficial management practices to minimize on-farm environmental risks.
– In 2015, agriculture was responsible for about 10 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s an 18-per-cent decrease in net emissions from 1990.
– Each year in Canada, about 40 per cent of all food produced goes uneaten. In 2014, that represented $31 billion in waste. The sources of this waste include:
Food processors: 20%
On the farm: 10%
Hotels and restaurants: 9%
Growing more high-quality food:
– In 2016, agriculture and the agri-food sector represents $112.1 billion in economic activity, or 6.7 per cent of Canada’s Gross Domestic Product.
– In 2016, agriculture and the agri-food sector employed 2.3 million people, representing 1 in 8 jobs.
– Canada is the world’s 5th largest exporter of agriculture and agri-food products, representing $56 billion in export sales in 2016. From 2007 to 2016, these exports have been growing at an annual rate of 7 per cent.
– In 2016, the food and beverage processing industry was the largest Canadian manufacturing segment, representing $28.5 billion, or 16.4 per cent, of the manufacturing sector’s GDP.
– There are 193,492 farms in Canada, a 5.9-per-cent decrease from 2011. The exceptions were the number of farms with fewer than 10 acres, which increased by 2 per cent, and farms with more than 3,520 acres, which increased by 8 per cent.
– The size of the average farm in Canada was 820 acres in 2016, up from an average of 779 in 2011.
– The age of the average Canadian farmer in 2015 was 55. The proportion of farmers under the age of 35 increased in 2016 for the first time since 1991.
Advocate Staff Reporter
Federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Lawrence MacAulay and provincial ministers of agriculture emerged from two days of meetings in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on July 21 with a new agreement that will shape Canadian farming regulations.
Its name? The Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP). A five-year, $3-billion investment, the agreement focuses agricultural policy on what Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada calls “six key priority areas.”
“The Canadian Agricultural Partnership sets the direction for the future of the sector to help it continue to innovate, grow and prosper, and position Canada as a leader in the global economy,” said MacAulay. “Together with provinces and territories, I am committed to expanding business opportunities for our Canadian producers, ranchers and processors, and strengthening the middle class.”
Quebec Minister of Agriculture Laurent Lessard voiced his approval and support for the agreement, stating that cooperation between Ottawa and the province’s ministry of agriculture is essential for developing Quebec’s agri-food businesses.
“That the budget allocated to the next strategic framework be maintained is excellent news for our industry, as well as respecting the level of flexibility that Quebec will have in setting up initiatives that meet the needs of the sector,” said Lessard. “In addition, I am pleased with the stability of the risk-management programs maintained as part of the agreement for the next five years.”
While all territories and provinces have signed the new agreement, not everybody is happy.
Saskatchewan in particular says it does not support late participation in the AgriStability program. That’s the federal program that protects producers from large declines in their farming income caused by production loss, increased costs or market conditions.
The new Canadian Agricultural Partnership would allow producers to sign up for AgriStability after the deadline, with payouts being reduced by 20 per cent. Saskatchewan says that goes against the principle of support and relief programs, where participants are asked to sign up before losses occur. The Prairie province will not be allowing its producers to sign up after the deadline.
“I’m saying today that Saskatchewan will not be triggering late participation in AgriStability,” provincial Minister of Agriculture Lyle Stewart said. “It’s still (the producers’) responsibility in Saskatchewan to sign up (on time) or manage without.”
Stewart and other provincial ministers were quick to remind farmers that, while the Canadian Agricultural Partnership replaces Growing Forward 2 as Canada’s chief agriculture policy framework, there is no new money in the agreement. Funds have been shifted around as a result of the arrangement producers are used to under Growing Forward 2.
For instance, the allowable net sales eligibility under AgriInvest will be reduced from $1.5 million to $1 million, and annual government matching contributions will be limited to $10,000 rather than $15,000.
“Producers shouldn’t get their hopes too high, because there is still no new money,” Stewart said. “So, anything that’s done that costs money to help one program will have to come out of another; so I wouldn’t expect major things to change, but, hopefully, we will find some small tweaks that will be helpful.”
The meeting between Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture, which is held in a different Canadian city every summer, holds a few promises for improving the nation’s agricultural landscape over the next five years.
Ministers agreed to a review of business risk-management programs — like AgriInsurance and AgriRecovery included in Growing Forward — that Ontario and several farm organizations have been arguing for. Ontario Minster of Agriculture Jeff Leal said the review will include “meaningful engagement” with producers across the country.
Agriculture Canada says CAP will focus on six priority initiatives. Canadian farmers can expect money to be directed into these areas in the next five years.
• Science, Research, and Innovation: Helping industry adopt practices to improve resilience and productivity through research and innovation in key areas.
• Markets and Trade: Opening new markets and helping farmers and food processors improve their competitiveness through skills development and improved export capacity, underpinned by a strong and efficient regulatory system.
• Environmental Sustainability and Climate Change: Building sector capacity to mitigate agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, protect the environment and adapt to climate change by enhancing sustainable growth, while increasing production.
• Value-added Agriculture and Agri-food Processing: Supporting the continued growth of the value-added agriculture and agri-food processing sector.
• Public Trust: Building a firm foundation for public trust in the sector through improved assurance systems in food safety and plant and animal health, stronger traceability and effective regulations.
• Risk Management: Enabling proactive and effective risk-management, mitigation and adaptation to facilitate a resilient sector by working to ensure programs are comprehensive, responsive and accessible.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is set to come into effect on April 1, 2018.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard on Thursday June 15 shared his plans to establish a secretariat within his Conseil Executif that would provide representation for the linguistic minority within the government of Quebec. On hearing the announcement QFA President John McCart responded, “We welcome this latest development and see this as a positive step towards a more inclusive Quebec; one that recognises community potential that can only add to collective unity and vitality.”
QFA is a part of the Quebec Community Groups Network (QCGN), a not-for-profit that links more than 50 English-speaking minority community organizations across Quebec. QFA has also been for many years an affiliate member of the French-speaking farming union L’Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec (UPA) and so offers a conduite for communication for both linguistic groups.
“This offers our community a door on which to knock to express and explain the potential impact of government policy proposals on our community before they become set in stone,” said QCGN President Jim Shea, who heard the news as he was attending the 22nd annual meeting of the QCGN in Montreal.
“We are both grateful and delighted with the Premier’s decision and we offer our full support and collaboration for the implementation of an effective structure to respond to our community’s needs,” Shea said.
The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced recently the nomination of Madeleine Meilleur as the new Commissioner of Official Languages.
According to official sources Ms. Meilleur has “dedicated herself to improving the lives and protecting the rights of Canadians living in official language minority communities for over twenty-five years”.