January 7th, 2015
There is no denying the importance of agriculture to the Canadian economy. The agriculture and agri-food industry contributes over $100 billion every year to Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). That number alone exceeds the national GDP of two thirds of countries in the world. In Ontario, the agri-food sector employs over 781,000 Ontarians and contributes over $35 billion to the province’s economy.
Agriculture employs countless Canadians, supports farmers and communities, and is constantly adapting itself to new economic and technologic trends. By doing so, it remains a viable and integral contributor to innovation and progress.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) represents an important governing body in this regard. They help farmers and the industry feed not only Canadians, but people all over the world. They encourage the development of exports while holding a leadership position that promotes innovation, sustainability, and competitiveness in the sector.
In Ontario, for instance, AAFC is partnering with universities to create a process known as vectoring. This process makes it possible for bumblebees to deliver microbial agents (through a biopesticide) directly to greenhouse plants during pollination in an effort to reduce pests. This biopesticide is harmless to bees, plants, and people.
Looking to the future is an important step, but the sector needs to experience growth as well to reach this goal. This is why, in 2013, Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne challenged the agricultural industry to double its annual growth rate and generate 120,000 new jobs by 2020. This article analyses the results of this call to action.
Current areas of growth focus
Ontario’s Agri-Food Growth Steering Committee recently released its recommendations at the 11th annual Premier’s Summit on Agri-Food, focusing on specific areas of the agricultural sector. The Steering Committee is comprised of government and industry leaders working to promote the success of the sector as a whole. They came up with recommendations highlighting three particular focus areas:
- Heightened government and industry promotion of Ontario’s agri-food sector, both at home and abroad
- Strengthened advocacy for Ontario’s food processing sector, especially at the federal level
- Encouraging the development of medium-sized agri-food businesses to heighten competitiveness
Maintaining an environment of progressive innovation for the agri-food industry in Ontario is an important element of the province’s commitment to investing in the talents of its people. Creating a dynamic environment for businesses to succeed promotes innovation and helps businesses not only survive, but also thrive.
Since Premier Wynne issued her Agri-Food Challenge mandate in 2013, the industry has contributed $1.3 billion in GDP and over 34,000 jobs. People from every area of the industry continue to come forward with new ideas and plans to establish innovation and create jobs. It will take the combined efforts of government and industry collaboration to meet her challenge.
Already at 34,000 jobs in two years, it seems feasible that the agricultural sector will reach its target goal of 120,000 new employees by 2020. Both the federal and provincial governments are hard at work addressing the recommendations of the Steering Committee. Both levels of government will continue to invest in the industry to help businesses thrive and grow.
There are various government funding programs available for those in the agri-food sectors, including Growing Forward 2 (Ontario) and the Rural Economic Development Fund. There are funding profiles available for virtually every area of the agricultural sector. Get in touch with us at INAC and we can help you find the programs best suited to your specific needs.