Federal government launches consultations on “Sustainable Agriculture Strategy”

Minister Bibeau launches consultations on the creation of a “Sustainable Agriculture Strategy” on Dec. 12, 2022. (Webex screenshot)

The Canadian government is launching public consultations on the creation of a “Sustainable Agriculture Strategy,” which it says is intended to provide a coordinated approach to improving the agriculture sector’s environmental performance and sustainability.

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Marie-Claude Bibeau, spoke at media event to kick off the consultations in Ottawa on Monday.

“We must help Canadian farmers keep building their resilience to climate change,” said Bibeau. “We need to sit down together and develop a roadmap that will keep us on track to meet our environment and climate goals.”

The minister was joined at the announcement by the Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture and Agri-Food, Francis Drouin, Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Climate Change, Terry Duguid, Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Mary Robinson, and Martin Caron, president of L’Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA.)

The strategy would be separate from the agricultural policy framework agreements signed by the federal, provincial, and territorial governments every five years, but is seen as providing direction to future ag programs and policies.

A 30-page discussion paper published by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) outlines why the government is looking to establish the strategy, and proposes the following five goals for the strategy:

  • The agriculture sector is resilient to short and long-term climate impacts while growing productive capacity, and has adapted to changing contexts due to climate change.
  • Environmental performance is improved in Canada’s agriculture sector, contributing to the environmental, economic, and social benefit of all Canadians.
  • The agriculture sector plays an important role in contributing to Canada’s national 2030 GHG emission reduction and net-zero by 2050 targets while remaining competitive and supporting farmers.
  • A more comprehensive and integrated approach is taken in addressing agri-environmental issues in the agriculture sector, across policy, programming, and partners in the value chain.
  • Canada has addressed data gaps and improved capacity to measure, report on, and track the environmental performance of the agriculture and agri-food sector.

The discussion paper says the strategy could include specific outcomes related to each of these five goals. Minister Bibeau indicated she did not want to anticipate what these specific targets or metrics might include. “We definitely want to have objectives at the end of this exercise and be able to measure the progress, but I don’t want to pre-judge what these objectives might be,” she said.

A 20-member advisory panel was also announced on Monday, and will be co-chaired by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. The panel (see member list below) held its first meeting on Monday and will be meeting every two weeks, said Bibeau.

“This committee will support dialogue between the key stakeholders,” noted Robinson, speaking at the press conference on Monday morning. “It is our hope this is the beginning of a long-term forum and strategic approach that can help support producers on our transition to a truly sustainable agriculture sector that provides safe and nutritious food for Canada and the world and generations to come.”

As for potential regulation or legislation backing up the strategy, Bibeau said the intent of the strategy is to work collaboratively and through the use of incentives for farmers.

The consultation period on the discussion paper will be open until March 31, with a draft version of the strategy expected to be published before the end of 2023.

Agriculture sector stakeholders in Ottawa have been waiting for more information on the strategy, as Bibeau’s mandate letter from December 2021 and the government’s 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan referred to the creation of a “Green Agricultural Plan” for Canada.

Sustainable Ag Strategy advisory panel members:

Canada Organic Growers
Egg Farmers of Canada
Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute
Farmers for Climate Solutions
Canadian Canola Growers Association
Fertilizer Canada
Canadian Cattle Association
Fruit & Vegetable Growers of Canada
Canadian Pork Council
Grain Growers of Canada
Canadian Wildlife Federation
National Farmers Union
Canola Council of Canada
Nature United
Chicken Farmers of Canada
Pulse Canada
Dairy Farmers of Canada
Union de producteurs agricoles
Ducks Unlimited
Soy Canada

More to come.