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2020-21 Departmental Plan - Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

Raison d'être

The Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food was created in 1868 – one year after Confederation – because of the importance of agriculture to the economic, social and cultural development of Canada. Today, the Department helps create the conditions for the long-term profitability, sustainability and adaptability of the Canadian agricultural sector. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports the sector through initiatives that promote innovation and competitiveness, and that proactively manage risk. The Department's goal is to position agriculture, agri-food and agri-based product industries to realize their full potential by seizing new opportunities in the growing domestic and global marketplace.

Our Vision

Driving innovation and ingenuity to build a world leading agricultural and food economy for the benefit of all Canadians.

Our Mission

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides leadership in the growth and development of a competitive, innovative and sustainable Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector.

Mandate and role

The Department supports the sector from the farmer to the consumer, from the farm to global markets, through all phases of producing, processing and marketing of farm, food and agri-based products. Agriculture is a shared jurisdiction in Canada, and the Department works closely with provincial and territorial governments in the development and delivery of policies, programs and services.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's mandate is based upon the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food Act. The Minister is also responsible for the administration of several other Acts such as the Canadian Agricultural Loans Act.

The Department is responsible for ensuring collaboration with its portfolio partners and agencies which are also involved in regulating and supporting Canadian agriculture, including the Farm Products Council of Canada. The Department also includes the Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency, a special operating agency that regulates and supervises pari-mutuel betting on horse racing at racetracks across Canada.

While the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reports to the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is responsible for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's non-food safety activities, including economic and trade issues, consumer protection, as well as animal health and plant protection work.

Operating context

Canada's diverse agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products sector is a driver of economic growth, innovation, trade, and investment at home and abroad. A major contributor to the Canadian economy, the sector contributes over $143 billion to Canada's gross domestic product annually, and employs more Canadians than any other manufacturing industry.

In 2018, federal, provincial and territorial governments launched the Canadian Agricultural Partnership - a five year, $3 billion policy framework that guides investments in the sector. The Partnership aims to help the sector grow trade, advance innovation while maintaining and strengthening public confidence in the food system, and increase diversity and inclusiveness in the sector.

With over half of the value of agricultural production being exported, the growth of the sector is significantly influenced by an increasing global demand for agricultural products, shifting consumer preferences, and the preservation and expansion of market access. In 2018, the total value of Canadian agriculture, agri-food and seafood exports reached an all-time high of over $66 billion. Nearly three quarters of Canada's agriculture and agri-food exports went to countries where Canada has a trade agreement that is signed or in force. However, tariffs and non-tariff barriers can impact the economic outlook for producers who depend on export markets for their products. For example, restrictions placed by China on imports of Canadian canola seed since March 2019 have impacted the agricultural industry and the Canadian economy overall. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is committed to maintaining and expanding market access and to enhancing the ability of the Canadian agricultural sector to seize domestic and international opportunities.

Science and innovation are critical to maintaining the profitability, competitiveness, and sustainability of Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector and are fundamental to Canada's growth agenda. Increasingly, a collaborative approach is being used across government, industry, and academia to build the necessary scientific capacity to capture key opportunities for the agricultural sector, and to accelerate the flow of science and technology in support of industry-defined strategies for future success.

Agriculture also plays a key role in meeting the government commitments of the clean growth and climate change agenda. The Canadian Agricultural Partnership provides a renewed emphasis on agri-environmental issues like soil and water conservation, as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation.

In addition to the economic forces within a competitive global marketplace, farmers also face increased threats to food production and income posed by extreme weather events and animal or plant disease outbreaks. The effective implementation of a suite of Business Risk Management tools for producers when they face significant risks supports sustainable growth. Furthermore, consumer demands are increasingly focused on the production methods and characteristics of Canadian products.

Ensuring alignment and facilitating responsiveness to the external environment is key to sector performance. Through ongoing engagement with industry and other Canadians including youth, women and Indigenous people in Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada strives to ensure that its programs and services reflect the needs and expectations of the sector in the context of current risks and opportunities.

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