FREDERICTON (GNB) – Federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of agriculture, including Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries Minister Ross Wetmore, 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. The ministers held their annual meeting July 18-19 in Quebec City.

Given the importance of exports to Canadian farmers and processors, ministers were unanimous in their support of international trade that is based on trade rules and science. They agreed to continue to work together to take advantage of new trade agreements with key markets.

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.

“The Canadian Agricultural Partnership is important to New Brunswick,” said Wetmore. “New Brunswick sector development programs have been successful in helping smaller sectors develop. A great example is our Apple Industry Development Program, which supports opportunities to improve the profitability of producers though the establishment of more productive orchards and adoption of new technologies.”

The ministers emphasized 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. Ministers discussed adjustments that could improve existing programs to address the needs of producers and complement private sector tools. Officials have been directed to return with a set of proposed improvements to the AgriStability program for the ministers' consideration before year end.

Ministers also acknowledged that the growing shortage of labour makes it difficult for agricultural businesses to operate and expand, despite their recruitment activities. Ministers reviewed sector concerns on the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and emphasized the importance of finding solutions to immediate challenges agriculture and agri-food employers are encountering when recruiting workers through the program. 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.

Other items discussed during the meeting included:

  • A commitment to building a diverse agriculture sector by encouraging the full participation of youth, women and Indigenous Peoples.
  • Issues involving young farmers, who shared their views during a panel on a range of topics from technology, to business management and mental health.
  • Collaborating with industry representatives on a pan-Canadian action plan to help proactively mitigate the potential impacts of African swine fever.
  • Recognizing 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.

The next annual meeting of the ministers is in Guelph, Ontario, in July 2020.