Current Events & Global Perspectives / February 19, 2020

Agriculture Day in Canada – What Can We Learn?

Agriculture Day in Canada is a yearly celebration that recognizes the contributions of the nation’s farmers. Held on February 11th and heavily promoted by the Canadian government, the event seeks to raise awareness of the importance of agriculture. 

Despite being less than 2% of the population, Canada’s farmers contribute  $110 billion annually to the nation’s GDP. The sector is responsible for employing 2.3 million people, which means that 1 of every 8 jobs in Canada is generated by the agricultural sector.

Canada has done an excellent job of supporting its  agriculture industry. The government sponsors numerous efforts to innovate farming systems through research and technological developments like digital farming and plant science innovation, which are responsible for saving $4000 per year in food expenses for each Canadian

In Canada,  97% of the farms are family owned, which is a model that the Canadian government is focused on supporting. From government subsidies to social programs to events such as Agriculture Day, the government of Canada recognizes the importance of agriculture as a family-focused activity. This recognition has led to Canada becoming one of the largest producers of flaxseed, canola, pulses, oats and durum wheat. 

When it comes to agricultural products, Canadians are increasingly concerned about the environment, climate change, and animal welfare. Sustainable food choices have become a must, to the point that 65% of people are willing to pay more money for local products. 

Policy makers have pushed the dairy industry to ban Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormones (rBGH) from milk and dairy products. Potassium bromate (an additive found in commercial bread) has also been banned due to its links to kidney, nervous system damage and cancer. 

In Canada, a variety of government organizations exist which promote competitiveness within the ag sector. For example, the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada agency provides grants to small farmers, helps farmers manage risk, and promotes scientific collaboration in agriculture. 

Canada is certainly seeing results from its efforts to promote agriculture. Canada exports a wide range of ag products, from grains to dairy to livestock products, and was ranked 5th globally for total agricultural export value in 2014. And of course, the country is the world’s #1 provider of maple syrup. 

Of course, no country is perfect, and the Canadian agriculture industry is not without its flaws. The rising price of land has resulted in the decline in the number of farming operations, and although the average operation is increasing in size, average income for farmers is declining. Imbalanced trade deals have granted foreign industries more access to Canadian consumers. 

In addition, downstream costs such as carbon taxes have put pressure on Canadian farmers, as have rising feed and labor costs. Average operating costs have risen about 6.5%. Canada’s agriculture industry will have to confront these challenges moving forward. 

Overall, the Canadian model is committed to supporting high-tech, family owned farms, and is focused on keeping good-quality food affordable. Consumers have the ability to pay higher prices for locally grown food, free of dangerous additives and hormones. These certainly are things to celebrate for Canada on their agriculture day. 

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