April 24th, 2024

Plenty of opportunities in Canadian agriculture: Harder


By Nikki Jamieson on March 23, 2021.

Machine operators seed barley in a field near Tempest as part of a past Coaldale Lethbridge Community Growing Project. Herald file photo by Ian Martens

LETHBRIDGE HERALDssnews@sunnysouthnews.com

The abundance in Canada’s agriculture sector allows for the country to feed the world and advance global trade and diplomacy, says a local MP.
Calling it “Canada’s unsung superpower,” Lethbridge Member of Parliament Rachael Harder noted agriculture and agrifood sectors contribute more than $100 billion to Canada’s economy, about seven per cent of it’s GDP and provides about 12 per cent of employment in Canada.
Harder noted when we think of agriculture, we tend to conjure pictures of ma and pa on an old tractor, however, agriculture has produced a lot of innovation and advances that are important to recognize.
“Agriculture is not only about food security, it’s also about cutting-edge technology, it’s about scientific advancement, it’s about leading the way in environmental protection and stewardship. And so, when it comes to technology and innovation, Canadian agriculture is really world-leading,” said Harder.
Agriculture should play a leading role, said Harder, as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, we need to put agriculture at the forefront of our recovery efforts. As Canada’s superpower and a global powerhouse, I believe it is worthy of our focus, worthy of our investment, worthy of our promotion and should be given centre stage when it comes to economic recovery and going forward.”
When the pandemic hit last spring, Harder had received calls from local producers concerned about the potential impacts. Cattle and pork producers had to hold onto their animals for longer, as meat processing plants had to shut down due to outbreaks of COVID-19, which increased costs for the producer and caused issues in caring for their animals. Supply chains were also interrupted, as restaurants had to close their doors during the pandemic and the hospitality industry took a hit as well, which in turn, negatively impacted producers.
However, “the positive news story in all of this” was 2020 was a great year for grain farmers, who reported a 12 per cent increase overall in crop proceeds.
“There’s highs and lows within the industry. There’s some sectors that were negatively impacted, there’s other sectors that had a positive outcome in 2020.”
While some industries were negatively impacted by negative trade relationships with India or China, Harder noted the pandemic highlighted the importance of the Canada and U.S. agriculture supply chains, with the bilateral agriculture trade in 2020 totalling more than $62 billion.
“Canada and the U.S have highly-integrated and mutually beneficial supply chains. That’s a trade relationship that needs to continue to remain very strong, we need to continue to cultivate that relationship.”
However, Harder said Canada still needs to diversify and cultivate new opportunities and trade relationships with other countries, particularly with India.
“(India is) an emerging economy. Within the next 10 years, they’re poised to double their GDP, they will become one of the top three or four economies in the world. That’s remarkable, and I think it’s to Canada’s advantage if we start to cultivate a positive relationship with India now rather than waiting, and one of the big areas I see potential for, is in the area of agriculture.”
One area of concern for Harder is the ability for producers to bring in seasonal farm workers.
A lot of producers are looking to bring on temporary foreign and seasonal workers at this time of year. However, Harder has been hearing many of their work visas are being held up at the Canadian embassy in Mexico.
“When they’re not able to get these workers into Canada, that’s a massive detriment to their operation, and hurts not only the producer, but I would say hurts all of Canada,” said Harder.

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Jetbee

“Harder noted when we think of agriculture, we tend to conjure pictures of ma and pa on an old tractor” SERIOUSLY? Where in the heck did she pick up that little morsel? And, who exactly, are WE? As a farm owner, I am not only offended but ashamed that our MP would say something so ridiculous and insensitive. It is long past time for you to grow up, Rachael.

knowlton

What a disgrace she is to Lethbridge. I’m stunned she didn’t quote Ronald Reagan this time!