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Earth is home to 7.7 billion hungry people, and climbing.  Who will feed the world into the future?  The opportunities for innovative food-producing nations are staggering, and Canada is well positioned to become one of the world’s great agricultural superpowers.  Except, we’re missing one critical component – visionary leadership. Currently Canada’s agri-food industry generates $110 billion annually of GDP, and employs 2.3 million people.  From 2012 to 2016 the sector grew by 11%, compared to the overall economy which grew by 7.8% during that same period.  As a nation, we export more than $60 billion of Agri-Food products annually to other countries.All this success is due mainly to the resourceful nature of our hard-working farmers, a diversity of arable land, and ample fresh water.  Unfortunately, consecutive federal governments have largely ignored the Canadian agricultural sector as an opportunity to drive our economy, and feed the world. Can you imagine the marvellous social and economic benefits if the government prioritized Agri-Food as the focus of Canada’s domestic and foreign policy?

Canada possesses world-class agricultural expertise and innovation.  We have a modern economy and established infrastructure to move our products to market, although more is needed to expand our trade capabilities.  Internationally we have earned a reputation for producing safe, high-quality food.

Becoming a leading global agricultural superpower is within our reach.

Ten years of advocacy work within this sector have convinced me this vision is achievable, and industry research polls indicate the majority of Canadians are optimistic towards the future of agriculture, and what it can do for the Canadian economy.  But optimism alone won’t turn us into a superpower; only visionary leadership will do that.  Without a coordinated, long-term federal plan to position Canada as a major food supplier, our opportunity to dominate on a global scale will be missed.

Collectively the agri-food industry must continue to lobby all levels of government with a clear, consistent and collaborative approach, in order to convince politicians of the massive potential benefits.

In 2017 the federal government’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth, authored by Dominic Barton, highlighted Agri-Food as a key growth sector for Canada.

Since then, not much has happened.

Prime Minister Trudeau’s recent appointment of The Honourable Bernadette Jordan as Minister of Rural Economic Development is an encouraging step, but it will take much more than a new portfolio to drive our Agri-Food sector toward superpower status.

And other nations are already way ahead of us.  The Netherlands, a fraction of our size geographically and lower in population, is currently the number two exporter of food in the world, as measured by value, second only to the USA!  Based on a national commitment to sustainable agriculture made two decades ago, the Dutch have become the global superpower of agricultural innovation, as they pioneer new ways to fight hunger.

If the Netherlands can do it, surely Canada can do it.  With world population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, there’s room for more food producing superpowers.

The federal election is less than 9 months away, and soon political candidates will criss-cross the land to tell you why they deserve your vote.  Will any of them talk of a long-term vision to champion our Agri-Food sector?  If not, I encourage you to ask why?

In this period of strained relations with longstanding allies and trade partners, it makes sound political sense to build on existing agricultural capabilities, as we work to strengthen current trade relationships, and build new ones.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper promoted Canada as an emerging energy superpower during his time as head of government, and repeatedly talked about the resultant economic benefits and increased global influence.  Defeated in 2015, Harper’s vision was not fully realized, and there’s no denying the current government has a different focus.

It’s time for a new vision for Canada.

Everyone needs safe, healthy food to eat, yet many of us take food for granted. Seemingly, so do our elected politicians.  Championing the Agri-Food sector means massive economic development for Canada, and food for the world.

Associations and groups across the country are increasingly promoting opportunities within the agricultural sector, including Farm Credit Canada, hosting their 3rd annual Agriculture Day on February 12th in Ottawa.

Now is the time to unite and celebrate food and the business of Canadian agriculture.

And there’s no time like the present to ponder our superpower capabilities…

Peter Seemann, Grassroots Founder & Principal