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June 23, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - The decisions we make as individuals and as a country about food have a direct impact on our health, environment, economy, and communities.

Today, over 250 participants, with diverse expertise on food issues, are wrapping up a unique two-day Summit in Ottawa, marking an important step in the development of A Food Policy for Canada.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, along with Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Yvonne Jones, and Adam Vaughan, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing and Urban Affairs), spoke to participants this morning, on the second day of the Summit.

The Minister and Parliamentary Secretaries highlighted the importance of hearing from Canadians, including experts and key stakeholders, in developing a food policy.

A Food Policy for Canada will be the first-of-its-kind for the Government of Canada and will cover the entire food system, from farm-to-fork.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Jean-Claude Poissant, and on behalf of Minister of Health, Greg Fergus, Member of Parliament for Hull-Aylmer, were on hand on the first day of the Summit to welcome participants from across the country.

Participants at the Summit included representatives from community organizations, academics, Indigenous groups, industry, stakeholders, and officials from all orders of government, who added their voices and contributed to discussions on a broad range of food-related challenges and opportunities in areas related to:

• increasing access to affordable food;

• improving health and food safety;

• conserving our soil, water, and air; and

• growing more high-quality food.

The Government of Canada wants to hear from Canadians about what is important to them when it comes to food opportunities and challenges.

Online consultations were recently launched at www.canada.ca/food-policy and remain open until July 27, 2017. Engagement on the development of the policy will continue throughout the summer and fall.
May 31, 2017, Toronto, Ont. - Food matters. Canadians make choices every day about food that directly impacts their health, environment, and communities. The Government of Canada is committed to helping put more affordable, safe, healthy, food on tables across the country, while protecting the environment.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister, Lawrence MacAulay, announced today that the Government of Canada is launching consultations to support the development of A Food Policy for Canada. An online survey is now open at www.canada.ca/food-policy and Canadians are encouraged to share their input to help shape a food policy that will cover the entire food system, from farm to fork. Canadians can share their views on four major themes
  • Increasing access to affordable food;
  • Improving health and food safety;
  • Conserving our soil, water, and air; and
  • Growing more high-quality food.
A Food Policy for Canada will be the first-of-its-kind for the Government of Canada, and is a new step in the government’s mandate to taking a collaborative and broad-based approach to addressing food-related issues in Canada.

The online consultation is the first of a number of engagement activities planned with a wide range of participants to inform the development of a food policy.

Feedback from the consultations will provide the federal government with a better understanding of Canadians’ priorities when it comes to food-related issues. The results will help inform key elements of a food policy, including a long-term vision and identifying actions to take in the near term.
May 29, 2017, Ontario - A ban on fresh cherries from Ontario shouldn’t affect Canadian exporters or U.S. consumers.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued the ban on May 23, citing “multiple detections” of the European cherry fruit fly. Host plants for the pest are cherry trees and honeysuckle vines.

Canada exports 3.3 million pounds of cherries to the U.S., most of them to eastern states, according to Statistics Canada. New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania take 1.4 million pounds; Michigan imports 600,000 pounds of fresh cherries from Canada. READ MORE
May 26, 2017, Ontario - The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is banning imports of fresh cherries from Ontario, following “multiple detections” of the European cherry fruit fly.

The May 23 U.S. Department of Agriculture-APHIS order applies to commercial and non-commercial imports.

Black, mahaleb, sour and sweet cherries are included in the ban. Wild honeysuckle, the fly’s other host plant, also is banned.

Restrictions for Ontario cherries will be in effect until the pest is eradicated from the province, APHIS legislative public affairs specialist Yindra Dixon said.

The pest has not been found in the U.S., but it could establish populations in northern regions of the U.S., Dixon said.

“The climatic tolerance and available hosts of this fruit fly would allow (it) to establish in the United States if introduced from Canada,” Dixon said. “This fruit fly is a serious economic pest of commercial cherries in Europe, where imports of cherries are also restricted.”

On Feb. 4, 2016, USDA identified a fruit fly photographed in Mississauga, Ontario, as likely a European cherry fruit fly. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) began surveys for the pest in Ontario in April 2016. In June 2016, one of the flies was found on honeysuckle in southeastern Ontario. READ MORE
May 12, 2017, Ottawa, Ont. - Canada’s farmers and processors need the federal government’s help to navigate the increasingly complex labyrinth of international trade to ensure they have access to the foreign markets they depend on, according to a report released Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

The committee met with over 500 witnesses and other stakeholders from across the country to examine international market access priorities for Canadian farmers and processors — a key contributor to the Canadian economy — to understand the challenges they face when exporting their products and to identify possible solutions to facilitate and encourage international market access.

The committee’s report, Market Access: Giving Canadian Farmers and Processors the World,  outlines ways to ensure Canadian products get to shelves around the world.

World-renowned products like Quebec maple syrup, Alberta beef, blueberries from Atlantic Canada, Okanagan and Niagara wines, and canola from the Prairies all reinforce the Canada Brand.

The committee sees the Canada Brand as crucial to positioning Canadian products on the international stage.

The committee makes 18 recommendations in its report, including:
  • That the federal government eliminate non-tariff barriers to trade and pursue free trade agreements with other countries.
  • That all levels of government work together to eliminate interprovincial trade barriers and invest in rail, road and marine infrastructure to guarantee that Canadian producers and processors are able to efficiently transport their products to consumers.
  • That the federal government improve access to infrastructure grants for farmers and food producers who want to invest in new technologies, and that Employment and Social Development Canada and Immigration and Citizenship Canada create programs that help farmers hire foreign workers to address labour shortages.
Adopting the committee’s recommendations will help the government ensure that the Canadian agriculture sector continues to thrive.
May 10, 2017, United States - A key U.S. potato industry organization is asking the Trump administration to address its concerns in upcoming negotiations.

The U.S. National Potato Council (NPC) is calling for action in any upcoming NAFTA renegotiations.

In a letter to President Donald Trump, John Keeling, NPC’s CEO, said the group “... is strongly supportive of improving the conditions for trade that we confront with Canada and Mexico.”

He also noted that the two countries represent important markets for U.S. producers. Canada is the second-largest export market with annual sales of US$315 million or 17.8 per cent of U.S. exports. Mexico comes in third with annual sales of US$253 annual, equalling 14.3 per cent of annual U.S. exports. READ MORE
April 27, 2017, Gloucester, Ont – The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) has developed a training program to help Canadian producers strengthen their workforces through on-the-farm training. The program, called AgriSkills, can be customized and made available to various commodity and sector organizations to help their member producers train workers in an easy-to-use and effective manner that documents results.

Recently released CAHRC research indicates the gap between labour demand and the domestic workforce in agriculture has doubled from 30,000 to 59,000 in the past 10 years and projections indicate that by 2025, the Canadian agri-workforce could be short workers for 114,000 jobs. The industry is in need of effective mechanisms to address skills gaps, train farm employees and track training progress.

AgriSkills is a training program that meets this need. It is a program delivered through national and provincial commodity and farm organizations that want to offer their members meaningful workforce training support. It includes structured on-the-farm training courses and employee tracking tools to support effective performance for new and existing workers. Research is currently available to customize the AgriSkills program for: aquaculture; beef; swine; sheep and goats; broiler hens; grains and oilseeds; potatoes; apples; mushrooms; sod; and apiculture industries.

The AgriSkills program includes training resources for both workers and their managers. On-the-job, self-guided activities help workers learn how to do their job safely and efficiently, while e-learning and online videos offer more in-depth information on the theory behind the practice. For managers, AgriSkills provides on-the-job training guides, checklists, tracking tools and other resources to help them support and manage their worker training requirements.

“The purpose of the AgriSkills program is to help producers train their workers in a consistent, efficient and effective manner, that documents all results,” explains Portia MacDonald-Dewhirst, executive director of CAHRC. “The system recognizes the importance of on-the-farm instruction, and gives employers an effective tool to ensure workers are taught how to perform their jobs successfully and safely.”

The core content of AgriSkills was developed with the help of experts, producers and small-business owners from a wide range of agriculture commodity groups. Their input enabled CAHRC to create a set of National Occupational Standards that reflects the work conducted on farms at various levels. By using training materials based on these standards, employers can ensure their workers have the skills they need to meet national standards of safety, competency and productivity – skills that reduce waste, minimize loss, and support business success.

AgriSkills is one of several tools that CAHRC offers to help modern farm operations manage their workforce. CAHRC also offers the Agri HR Toolkit – an online resource guide and templates to address the HR needs of any business; Agri Pathways – promoting careers in agriculture; and Agri Talent – a national database of learning opportunities in agriculture.

The AgriSkills program was funded by the Government of Canada’s Sectoral Initiatives Program. For more information on these and other CAHRC offerings visit www.cahrc-ccrha.ca.
April 10, 2017, Guelph, Ont – Average farmland values in Canada continued to climb in 2016, but lost steam in most provinces, including Ontario, according to Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) latest Farmland Values Report.

Canada’s farmland values showed an average increase of 7.9 per cent in 2016, compared to a 10.1 per cent increase in 2015 and a 14.3 per cent increase in 2014. Canadian farmland values have increased at various rates for the past 25 years.

The average value of Ontario farmland increased 4.4 per cent in 2016, following gains of 6.6 per cent in 2015 and 12.4 per cent in 2014. Values in the province have continued to rise since 1988.

In six provinces, the average increase in farmland values slowed from the previous year. And despite the overall national increase, seven of the 51 regions assessed across Canada showed no increase in farmland values in 2016.

“The impact of some of the key farmland value drivers appear to be fairly consistent across Canada,” said J.P. Gervais, FCC chief agricultural economist. “Levelling out of commodity prices and some challenging weather conditions may have taken some of the steam out of farmland values and hopefully this moderating effect will turn into a trend.”

Prince Edward Island experienced the highest increase among the provinces and saw the only double-digit increase at 13.4 per cent. There were not enough publicly reported transactions in Newfoundland and Labrador to accurately assess farmland values.
 
“Demand for Canadian agricultural products remains strong at home and abroad,” Gervais said. “A healthy agriculture sector – supported by a low Canadian dollar and low interest rates – helped sustain increases in farmland values in 2016.”

“I would, however, caution producers not to become overly confident,” he said, noting crop receipts have increased at a slower rate than farmland values over the past few years. “Although we have just come off of several years of record farm receipts, agriculture is a cyclical business and producers should always plan for different market conditions.”

Gervais encourages producers to identify key risks and available solutions to manage these risks should changes suddenly occur in their businesses or the economic environments in which they operate.

To view the 2016 FCC Farmland Values Report, video and historical data, visit www.fcc.ca/FarmlandValues.

To learn more about the report, register for the free FCC webinar on April 18, which can be found in the Agriwebinars section at www.fcc.ca/events.
March 20, 2017, Winnipeg, Man – Government officials were in Winnipeg recently to provide remarks at the Canadian Horticultural Council 95th Annual General Meeting, where he announced more than $274,000 in Growing Forward 2 funding to help expand markets for Canadian potatoes.
 
This project, funded under the AgriMarketing Program, provides the CHC with up to $274,714 to help grow foreign and domestic markets for Canadian potatoes, through trade shows, targeted advertising, incoming missions, market research and development, and product promotion.

“The Canadian Horticultural Council and the Canadian Potato Council appreciate the funding received through the AgriMarketing Program, Market Development Stream, to support the export growth of high quality Canadian seed and fresh potatoes,” said Keith Kuhl, outgoing president of the CHC.

This investment is part of the federal government’s plan to help Canadian farmers expand markets at home and abroad.
 
“The funding has allowed Canadian growers to maintain a presence in international markets by participating in tradeshows, international standard setting processes, and in phytosanitary market access activities,” said John Bareman, chair of the CHC’s Potato Committee.
In late January, I walked into the first afternoon of the Ontario Processing Vegetable Industry Conference with a swagger in my step. I was going to learn something that many in my sphere of influence were still struggling with: What to expect from a Trump presidency.
December 15, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) is pleased with the federal government's announcement yesterday that the cumulative duration limit, or "four-in, four-out" rule, will no longer apply to temporary foreign workers.
 
In recent meetings with government officials, CFA has expressed concern that this rule has created unnecessary hardship for employers already struggling to fulfill their labour requirements. It has limited the pool of available, experienced workers and led to significant retraining costs while reducing productivity. Ultimately, it has limited opportunities for temporary foreign workers to attain permanent residency. CFA continues to see increased pathways to permanent residency as a vital component of any long-term strategy to reduce Canadian agriculture's labour shortages.

"The government's early action on this file is a critical step forward and CFA is eager to work with government and industry partners in the coming months on a more comprehensive suite of meaningful changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program and broader labour market programming," said CFA President Ron Bonnett.

Removing the cumulative duration rule was one of several recommendations that CFA presented to the House of Commons human resources committee earlier this year.

With recent research from the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council highlighting nearly 60,000 vacancies in primary agriculture alone – a figure expected to increase to 114,000 by 2025 – these changes come as a welcome and important move towards meaningful change.

Labour constraints in agriculture continue to cost the industry approximately $1.5 billion in lost sales each year. Farm groups reiterate that this multi-faceted issue requires a long-term strategic approach that includes:

  • improved engagement with groups that are under-represented in the domestic agricultural labour force
  • amendments to Canada's immigration policy
  • ways to make Canada's skills training programs more supportive of farms and on-the-job training.

CFA looks forward to obtaining more details of the new requirements for employers to advertise job opportunities to under-represented groups. Connecting with these communities is a priority for the industry and CFA is working with other stakeholders to address current barriers that confront those interested in working in the sector.

Interested parties are encouraged to refer to the Agriculture and Agri-food Workforce Action Plan, developed by a Labour Task Force involving more than 75 organizations, as a roadmap to improving Canada's agricultural labour market.

December 6, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Chrystia Freeland, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, shares the Canadian Horticultural Council’s (CHC) concern over France’s ban of products from countries where dimethoate is registered as a pesticide.

Dimethoate is used for control of sucking and chewing insects and fruit flies, and is currently used in orchards after harvest for control of western cherry fruit flies. READ MORE

December 5, 2016, Ottawa, Ont – Canada’s agriculture sector faces a persistent lack of sufficient workers with the right skills and in the right places.

Labour shortages have doubled over the last decade and are projected to double again to 113,800 positions before 2025, according to a new Conference Board of Canada report. This report relies on research findings from a three-year agriculture labour market research project conducted by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) in collaboration with the Conference Board.

“The agriculture sector is having difficulty recruiting and retaining domestic workers. As labour shortages have expanded, the sector has increasingly turned to temporary foreign workers to fill the labour gap,” said Michael Burt, director of industrial economic trends with the Conference Board of Canada. “Finding solutions to the labour shortages in the years to come is critical for the future growth of the sector.”

The report – Sowing the Seeds of Growth: Temporary Foreign Workers in Agriculture – examines why temporary foreign workers (TFWs) play such an important role in the agriculture sector’s workforce. It finds that the industry faces unique recruitment and retention challenges that are contributing to its growing labour shortages. These challenges include an aging workforce, the rural location of many operations, and negative perceptions about working in the sector.

Highlights of the report include:

  • Labour shortages within Canada’s agriculture sector have doubled over the past decade and are expected to double again by 2025.
  • At its seasonal peak, the sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at seasonal lows.
  • Three-quarters of the sector’s labour gap has been filled by temporary foreign workers.

The most prominent challenge is the large seasonal fluctuations in employment. At its seasonal peak, the agriculture sector needs about 100,000 more workers than at its seasonal lows, which represents a 30 per cent fluctuation. The average difference between the seasonal peak and low in employment for all other sectors is just four per cent. These seasonal fluctuations are why more than three quarters of agricultural TFWs arrive as part of the Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program.

TFWs have become a key part of the sector’s continued operations and will likely continue to play a growing role in the future. TFWs have been able to fill three-quarters of the industry’s labour shortage gap and now represent one-in-10 workers in the sector. In addition to easing much of the sector’s labour shortages, TFWs have contributed to the growth in agricultural production over the past decade and have supported the employment of Canadians in the sector. Many farm operators indicate that they would have closed, leading to Canadian job losses, had they not had access to TFWs.

Finding solutions to the sector’s growing labour gap in the years to come is important. However, just paying more or buying more machines are not the panacea they would seem. For example, wages in agriculture have risen relative to the average for all sectors over the past 15 years, but the number of Canadians willing to work in agriculture has shrunk. At the same time, a dramatic increase in the amount of machinery employed per worker has contributed to agriculture experiencing the strongest labour productivity gains of any major sector over the past 20 years. Yet, the sector’s labour gap has continued to expand.

One potential solution may be re-evaluating the effectiveness of Canada’s immigration programs so that they better meet the needs of the agriculture sector. With federal immigration policies geared toward attracting high-skilled workers, they offer few pathways for permanent residency for lower-skilled workers, even though agriculture has a critical need for them. A path toward permanent residency for migrant workers, who are filling a permanent market need, would assist farm operators in finding a permanent solution to their labour challenges.

This research was funded by the Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC).

The Vineland Research and Innovation Centre is receiving a $920,000 federal investment from the federal government to develop new disease-resistant apple and greenhouse tomato varieties that will contribute to the long-term growth and profitability of these two sectors.

October 31, 2016, Brussels, Belgium – The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) applauded the Government of Canada for recently signing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union (EU).

In an official ceremony, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau, President of the European Council Donald Tusk, President of the European Comission Jean-Claude Juncker and Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico for the Slovakia's Presidency of the Council of the EU signed the CETA deal, after seven years of negotiations. The official signing means the complete text may begin the ratification process through the Canadian Parliament and the legislatures of the 28 member countries of the EU and cannot be amended.

"Seeing Canada's largest trade agreement since NAFTA get signed is a bright light for agri-food exporters," said Brian Innes, CAFTA president. "Better access to the EU will help us grow our exports, driving growth here in Canada."

Eliminating barriers to trade through the CETA will allow Canada to capture more value from agri-food exports to the EU. Canada exported $2.6 billion in agriculture and food products to the EU in 2014. When the CETA is fully implemented, it will eliminate EU tariffs on almost 94 per cent of Canada's agri-food products. The agreement could drive additional exports of up to $1.5 billion, including $600 million in beef, $400 million in pork, $100 million in grains and oilseeds, $100 million in sugar containing products and a further $300 million in processed foods, fruits and vegetables.

Over the last 10 years in Canada, agriculture and agrifood exports have grown by 103 per cent, from $30 billion to over $61 billion – boosting farm cash receipts by 61 per cent over the same 2005-2015 period.

"We believe free trade deals like CETA are required for Canada's export oriented agri-food sector to thrive," said Innes. "CETA provides the framework to access one of the world's few multibillion-dollar export markets, and importantly, it does so ahead of our major competitors."

One remaining concern is the slow progress the EU is making to resolve technical issues that will allow agri-food exporters to have commercially viable access to the EU. CAFTA encourages government officials to resolve outstanding technical issues while the necessary legal and political processes are completed.

CAFTA Executive Director Claire Citeau was present for the signing ceremony and was accompanied earlier this week in Brussels by Doug Sawyer of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.

CAFTA and its members have attended multiple rounds of negotiations and look forward to working closely with government officials on successfully implementing this deal so that commercially viable access is achieved.

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