Ottawa – The federal government released its budget yesterday and one of its highlights was Canada’s agri-food sector.
The sector was named as one of six key areas that will benefit from a new national Innovation and Skills Plan.
For the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) it’s very welcome news. The CFA says it signals the government’s recognition that Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sector is primed to drive a new era of economic growth that will benefit all Canadians.
In a statement, the CFA adds that although the budget doesn’t specify details on certain policy targets, such as the aim of increasing agri-food exports to $75 billion annually from $50 billion by 202, the organization is pleased with the emphasis on the contributions of agriculture in helping to grow the economy.
“CFA is encouraged that the government envisions an expanded role for farmers and agri-food businesses as part of its innovation agenda. Farmers have been saying for years that agriculture is a strategic sector for Canada, given our vast natural resources, our research and technology, and our skilled labour force,” says CFA President Ron Bonnett.
The Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) also welcomed the news. “We are very pleased with the government’s bold strategy to grow the agri-food sector,” says Michael Graydon, CEO of the FCPC.
“Budget 2017 reflects FCPC’s efforts over the years with the federal government to highlight the sector’s importance and proactively position the industry as a partner in driving innovation and inclusive growth.”
For a look at Budget 2017, click here.
Agri-food and food processing
The federal government says in the budget that in addition to specific investments made to support the growth of and innovation in Canada’s agri-food sector, it has undertaken other efforts to support Canada’s farmers and food processors:
• Launching a full review of rail service across western Canada.
• Creating a $10.1 billion Trade and Transportation Corridors Initiative that will invest in gateways and ports, to help get agri-food products to market.
• Successfully completing the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, and making ongoing efforts to expand market access for Canadian agri-food producers throughout Asia.
• Eliminating tariffs on a broad range of agri-food processing ingredients, covering approximately $700 million in annual imports, to strengthen the competitiveness of Canadian agri-food manufacturers at home and abroad.
• Improving access to support for agri-food value-added processors through the new Strategic Innovation Fund.
• Investing $500 million to support the expansion of broadband networks in rural Canada and $2 billion to support rural infrastructure including roads and bridges, making it easier for Canada’s agri-food producers to connect to markets in Canada and internationally.
Other highlights from the budget include launching the next agricultural policy framework in 2018 where federal, provincial and territorial governments will renew their commitment to investing in the sector.
Budget 2017 will also invest $70 million over six years to further support agricultural discovery science and innovation, with a focus on addressing emerging priorities, such as climate change and soil and water conservation.
The CFA says that while budget 2017 represents modest spending overall, the investments and policy directions related to the agri-food industry show that the government intends to act on advice of the Finance minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, which in a report released last month recommended new agri-food spending as a worthwhile investment.