Oct 21, 2021

Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-food Sector: Proudly the Breadbasket of our Economy

Canada’s FoodLink is a multi-sectoral initiative championing Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector. From producers to processors to manufacturers to retailers and everywhere in between, all members of the sector work tirelessly to keep Canadians — and the world — fed safely, securely, and healthily.  What’s more – they are able to do it sustainably while boosting Canada’s economic productivity. In all, Canada’s agriculture and agri-food system creates 2.3 million jobs and contributes $143 billion to our overall GDP, or about 7.4%, according to Statistics Canada. 

Generally, Canadians have an overwhelmingly optimistic view of the industry, whether it is in terms of its environmental impact or as an economic driver. For instance, recent polling by Grassroots Public Affairs reveals that 76% of Canadians consider agriculture to be very important to Canada’s economy. At the same time, just over two-thirds recognize its positive effect on the environment. This demonstrates that more work is needed in promoting the sector’s contributions to the fight against climate change while working hard to meet our economic and food security targets. In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector is among the greenest in the world, contributing to just over 8% of Canada’s overall domestic emissions, in comparison to a global average of 23%[1]. Whether through carbon sequestration or nitrous oxide emission reductions, the sector continues to lead the way in environmental stewardship. Canadians should be proud to know that their food is produced sustainably and in an environmentally conscious manner without hampering economic activity.

At the same time, however, the agriculture sector is severely hampered by extraneous regulation and relative lack of recognition by government as an environmental and economic leader. Federal government departments such as Health and Environment and Climate Change Canada, continue to impose regulations that inhibit the sector’s economic competitiveness and growth potential. As Canada’s government begins to take form and get down to work, these departments should work with industry to evaluate the impact of those regulations and ensure alignment with economic and environmental objectives.

The federal government should also work with industry to implement a net-zero transition strategy that creates jobs for all Canadians, promotes innovation, and establishes a business environment conducive to investment.  To that end, the agriculture sector must be a key partner in advancing Canada’s net-zero strategy.  Initiatives such as the 4R Nutrient Stewardship program and carbon sequestration projects demonstrate the agriculture sector’s environmental sustainability leadership and commitment to achieving net zero.

As the saying goes, the sum is greater than our individual parts. Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector consists of an interconnected, innovative, and modern system that continues to demonstrate leadership in meeting environmental and economic targets. Canadians can continue to be proud of our agricultural and agri-food systems, while our governments would be welcome to step up and begin championing Canada’s agriculture best-practices around the world.

Jarred Cohen is a Policy Advisor at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

[1] Canadian Agri-Food Sustainability Leadership Project – A Cause Study on Metrics: Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions & Sequestration

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