At this time in history, when the world is cast in the shadow of doubt and the restless hands of fate twinge with fear, it is the security of Canada that comforts us. Not that we are not immune to adversity for surely the world is one stage, nor can we justify the acts of a few who hate or act from a deep place of confusion. Rather we continue to carry our flag that has upon it a leaf — an image for life, new growth and abundant harvest.
It is our Canada that is one of the breadbaskets of the world and it is in her heart that she carries her soil, her secrets and her sanctity of life. Our constitution protects this for her people and despite the power of government; our leaders act with an ear to their constituents and conduct themselves on our behalf. We may not always agree, but that too is our right in this land in which we sing “strong and free.”
When times of uncertainty assail the public they reach deep inside of themselves for courage and they seek truths and answers that will assure them of their tomorrows. And we are here — the nation’s farmers and food processors — to offer the pathway to a bright and robust future. Despite all the unrest unfolding outside our borders we remain a constant spring of food for the world.
If the concern is unemployment then agriculture is the answer. Agriculture employs one in eight Canadians and that makes for over 2.1 million jobs in agriculture and agri-food. So strong is our industry that we trump oil and gas as contributors to GDP. And while other industries are asking dedicated workers to leave — the agricultural industry is inviting them to stay. Canadian agriculture is expected to need another 74,000 persons by the year 2022.
When concern arises over trade we can assure folks that many countries depend on us — including those who are living in conflict or escaping war. As we pray for France, we also respect that they, along with Belgium, Germany and Italy are our major export destinations for commodities such as high-quality durum wheat of which Canada is the world’s largest producer and exporter. We can assure fellow Canadians that those receiving meals of lentils, may be eating Canadian lentils, for we are also the world’s leading exporter of this crop and largest producer of canola, peas, wild blueberries, maple syrup, mustard seed and flaxseed.
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Our beautiful landscapes are recognized around the world and Canadians like to see those resources protected. When they fear for their environment, farmers not only have the technology but are employing the answer. Farming contributes to 10 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to other industry and transportation. The dairy industry alone reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 21 per cent over a 10-year period. While many activities destroy land — it is the nation’s farmers who are securing it. Minimum tillage alone saves 170 million litres of fuel over conventional tilling methods every year. The use of biodiesel which is derived from plants on Canadian farms equates to taking 300,000 cars off the road and our forage industry valued at nearly $6 billion is an active carbon sink along with native grass and trees. Farmers are building Canada’s future from the ground up.
In times of economic uncertainty, our fellow Canadians may worry about access to food because 70 per cent of what they put in their cart comes from Canadian farms. The contribution of Canadian farms to food security for her people is profound and it is matched by food processing. Processors in Canada employ more persons than the auto industry and technology ensures healthy eating for all. Vegetables are picked and frozen or presented with all nutrients intact or shipped within 24 hours to their destination. Meats are a huge part of processing as is poultry and along with eggs provide a variety of proteins for all. And we do it at a cost that is allowing Canadians to spend only eight per cent of disposable income on food. When Canadians eat out they enjoy fruits, berries, vegetables, meats, grains, oilseeds, beer, wine, juice, milk and milk products and imported value-added products such as coffee and chocolate all compliments of the agri-food industry.
Canadian farmers not only feed, clothe and employ Canadians, they care about their fellow man and contribute generously to charities such as the Canadian Food Grains Bank and in partnership with the Government of Canada have been able to feed and educate people in 40 countries. As you read this it is the grain through this initiative that is helping to feed refugees and others in need. The men and women who own farms in Canada not only provide food for the world but they contribute time in building everything from hospitals to homes, they send clothing and books, money and machinery, education and expertise. Canadian farmers are on the front line for their nation. They are creators and caretakers of rural arteries — the lifeline to food, fuel and technology for our people and the people of the world.
Agriculture is the strongest political platform on which you can stand for it is the foundation of civilization. The maple leaf on our flag is there to remind us of both the beauty and the bounty of our nation. It symbolizes renewal, growth and strength. How blessed we are.