Farmers, ag firms need to step up agriculture’s profile

Agri-food sector told to improve promotion

A quick search of The Globe and Mail’s website suggests that petroleum is much more important to Canada than agriculture.

Entering the words “oil,” “Canada” and “economy” into the Globe search engine generates 20,042 results, while “agriculture,” “Canada” and “economy” produces 3,134 results.

Amanda Lang, a well-known business journalist, said agriculture and food is more vital to the country and the economy than the oil and gas sector, but few people understand that agri-food is re-sponsible for one in eight jobs in Canada.

Lang told the Canadian Agri-Food Forum in Ottawa in early November that industry leaders should get together and set the record straight.

“Have your voice. Know how important you are,” she said.

“I don’t know whether the top forces of this industry get together regularly … (but) organize yourselves.”

Keith Currie, an Ontario Federation of Agriculture vice-president, agreed, saying it’s time for major players in the agriculture and food industry to collaborate on a public awareness campaign.

“We haven’t done a good job of telling our story to the public,” said Currie, who farms north of Toronto.

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“We are an industry that’s coast to coast to coast … and we touch everybody’s life everyday…. We have to get out in front of this.”

Currie said agri-food leaders are taking the first steps to work together on public awareness and trust.

Agriculture and social licence was one of the points of discussion at this summer’s provincial agriculture ministers meeting in Prince Edward Island, and Currie said those conversations led to a recent meeting in Winnipeg.

“I know there was a meeting a couple weeks ago…. There were deputy ministers … and some commodity leaders and the CFA (Canadian Federation of Agriculture) was involved, starting down that road of formulating a process of how we can organize,” he said.

“I think the aim, right now, is hopefully have some sort of roundtable discussion (on social licence) next summer … to gather everybody and put our heads together.”

Currie said a co-ordinate communication effort is needed to increase public awareness.

“If you do it collectively, the message is the same,” he said.

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“There’s nothing worse than throwing a confusing message at the public.”

Canadian Federation of Agriculture president Ron Bonnett said agricultural leader, from government and the grain sector are developing a working paper on social license, which should be completed in a few weeks. The paper will provide direction on how Canada’s agri-food industry can unite and address the issue collectively.

“Get the whole agriculture sector to come together,” Bonnett said.

“There have been (individual) attempts at this in the past, (but) commodity by commodity.”

Currie said coming together is complex in a large country such as Canada, which produces more than 200 agricultural commodities.

However, a co-ordinated effort and a collective investment are now required to maintain public confidence in agriculture.

“Lots of people have best intentions on how to educate the public, but they may not have the best idea on how to go about doing it,” Currie said.

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“That’s where the collection of all the partners in agri-food industry need to be together, so we understand how we need to deliver the message.”

  • ed

    Amanda Lang’s understanding of how much larger agriculture is than the oil and gas industry as elementary as that is does seem pretty good, bless her soul, but she advocated for dismantling the CWB single desk for Western Canadian farmers. Her father was a staunch supporter of the board because he understood the pure amount of thieving going on before it existed, that has returned with a vengeance. She may want to go home for a few more life lessons or just learn them the hard way. In any case agriculture is a little hard to elevate the profile on when you have corporations whispering in the ears of poorly educated farm groups and they in turn push urban politician that know little about it all, to create an on going plethora of “open wound” farm policy and all the disease and pestilence that creeps in with that. Until then it is more accurate to discuss the poor mental and physical state of agriculture in our nation and that it should be umbrella ed in under the Canadian Health Care Act.

    • Harold

      I am not an activist but a peaceful observer, but Oh Boy! CWB and Canada Health. We keep giving one man [minister of Health] about $6,234,348,498.57 (your money) each year and another man [Minister of Agriculture} about $1,900,532,062 (your money) and what do we get in return? Boards and Agency’s who when they come knocking on your door- it costs you money. You can apply for Government Grants (your money- shared with university and Corporate) or a loan. (your money) $!,900,532 062 annually isn’t enough of our money to bring wealth to the farmers. You Farm (your money) and the only actual wealth comes from the ground or animals.[200 agricultural commodities] Just how many people are making money from it. Yet we still need to “organize ourselves”, they need to organize themselves, they have to unite agriculture, “need to know how important we are” (compared with whom?), the record has to be set, and we need awareness yet. Thought this is what we had bought already. They say its too complex. Without Government could we have been more progressive?. $6,234,348,498 isn’t enough money annually to keep our health. Unless compromised, our health is FREE. As reported, Health Canada needs to clean up the foods that our children eat and drink. They are unsafe for consumption. How Nobel. How expensive. Aren’t they the gate? Just how many people made money on the sickness of your Child and You. How did they get into the Market in the first place. If someone makes you sick; don’t buy from him again and seek damages. How complex!! I you hire someone who doesn’t deliver as promised; fire him and collect damages. How complex!! How does a Tractor become complex? when liars tell you how to start it and how to operate it and how to fix it.

      • ed

        Yes, exactly. The limited liability food corps have this wrapped up tighter than pythons. They are into the Ag. and the Health Care budget for all they can get and suing them for any kind of damages will take years off your life and cost a couple hundred thousand dollars minimum to get back dime one, so in most cases is not a prudent personal endeavor. Corporate impunity to the law is a big part of the problem, and that is not going to change any time soon. Buy natural/organic and local when you can and not the big name brand copy cat organic whenever possible. Slow down and make healthy food a routine part of your life to avoid the health care system for all but the most acute situations and learn as much about it all as you can keeping your mind open to everything coming at you. Get second and third opinions when it comes to the tough stuff. Don’t get too serious about it. There are no absolutes. Have fun, stress is a killer, but do not let it ride.