Agriculture Minister MacAulay wants to focus on trade, innovation

Steve Sharratt comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on February 1, 2016

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, centre, was welcomed to the 75th annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture by executive director Robert Godfrey and federation president Mary Robinson.

©THE GUARDIAN/Heather Taweel

Speaks at 75th annual meeting of P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

P.E.I. farmers may be facing the best political alignment they could ever imagine after native son federal Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay confirmed growing a great future in agriculture is top priority.

MacAulay, the guest speaker at the 75th annual meeting of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture last week, received a tremendous welcome from almost 200 producers gathered at the Confederation Centre of the Arts.

“Your federation has deep roots on this Island, and you have all pioneered some of the major changes and advancements,’’ said the minister. “You even helped bring electricity to the rural areas of this province.”

MacAulay said he has been tasked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to focus on trade and innovation since more than half of Canada’s agricultural products are exported.

“We produce the best food in the world and we have to make sure people know that,’’ he said. “Trade opens new doors and creates good jobs for Canada.”

Agriculture in P.E.I. generates more than half a billion dollars a year in farm cash receipts and creates over 12,000 jobs.

“We are going to work on trade agreements, but I want to know your opinions both pro and con,’’ he told farmers referring to the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership still being tweaked as it stands to open doors in Asia.

MacAulay said the federal government is prepared to help the industry adjust to climate change and sea level rise and concentrate on investing in sustainable agriculture, scientific research and environmental stewardship.

“We have a growing world population, and the expansion of the middle class in China is amazing,’’ he said. “The demand for protein and food is there, and we want to be the ones filling those markets.”

The minister said the government is introducing a new agricultural policy framework in which working together with all provinces and maintaining close consultation with stakeholders will be important parts of the mandate.

“I want to draw on your experience and expertise,’’ he said. “I need to hear from you how we can make things better for producers and I intend to listen and work closely with you.”

MacAulay said he was flattered to have been in politics for so long – almost 30 years – and to speak to the 75th annual meeting of agriculture as the federal minister of the industry.