In an effort to gain a better understanding of agriculture on the Prairies, Liberal Member of Parliament for King-Hants in Nova Scotia, Kody Blois, recently visited Saskatchewan to learn about innovation happening in the province, and to hear what challenges producers are facing.
Blois serves as the chair of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and says he has an invested interest in gaining perspective on the ag industry across the country.
During his visit, Blois says that he knew what Saskatchewan has to offer, referencing the province’s abundance of arable land along with the advancements being made in research and innovation, yet says he was still taken back with just how impressive the province is proving to be.
“I must say over the four days, just totally impressed with the innovation, the research and just the the size and scope. Look, we know that 40 per cent of the arable lands in Canada are tied to Saskatchewan. So I knew what I was getting into. But it’s just it was really impressive to see on the ground and had a great time when I was there,” he says.
His trip was focused in and around both Saskatoon and Regina and honed in on research developments taking place at the University of Saskatchewan along with developments with agri-food processing, highlighting specifically plant proteins and the work that is being done at Vanscoy at the Ingredion facility.
“This is a $300 or $400 million facility in rural Saskatchewan that is doing leading work and I really think that they’re at the tip of the iceberg in terms of where those consumer trends are going to go,” Blois says as he touches on the sizeable task that is feeding the world population. “Those plant based proteins and the ability to pull the starches and proteins from some of the cash crops to derive important products to meet changing consumer tastes and to and to feed a growing world – We’re on the front edge of it in Western Canada and particularly in Saskatchewan.”
Feeding the topic of advancements, Blois also commended the work that Protein Industries Canada (PIC), has been doing to garner funds and properly allocate those funds in ways that will see the greatest advancements for the industry.
However, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and Blois became aware of some of the current and future issues that require problem solving and solutions in order to see agriculture flourish on the prairies. Firstly, he says water management is top of mind, especially in the wake of the drought seen by the province in the recent years.
“One of the things that I thought was important in the budget is there is a plan and a commitment to create a water agency, especially a water agency outside of the National Capital Region. Obviously, I don’t know exactly where that’s gonna go, but the Prairie provinces, like Saskatchewan, would make sense.” (Story continues below)
It is no secret that Saskatchewan is rich with a variety of commodities from potash to wheat – which also means, the province relies heavily on exports and transportation will likely be a focus for the land-locked province in the upcoming years.
“Anything that the government takes on now might not be felt until a couple years down the line, but the big piece that I think is going to be important is trying to align transportation – the ways in which we can work to try to align and assure that we can meet the transportation needs where global demand is so high is going to be extremely important.”
It was previously stated that Blois “knew what he was walking into”; that statement wasn’t only in reference to the abundance that Saskatchewan has to offer, but also knowing very well that the federally imposed carbon tax, which just recently saw another increase, was going to be a topic of conversation while in the province.
He says he understands that it is a point of contention but pointed towards certain efforts the federal liberal government is doing to off-set those steep increases felt by producers’ pocketbooks. Blois talks about the balancing act between the government’s environmental goals and mitigating the expensive trickle-down effect that is has on Canada’s producers.
“I would point to [Bill] C-8, that has almost $100 million to return back to farmers on things like grain drying in areas that are not exempted, where there’s really not technology or new a way to innovate, to the extent that we would like right now, and we’re trying to make sure that that money goes back.”
Overall, Blois says his four-day visit was four days well spent and shares Saskatchewan won’t be his last stop on his Canadian ag tour with aspirations to visit Alberta, B.C., Manitoba, and southwestern Ontario as soon as it is possible to do so.
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