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Corporate information - 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 and key risks

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. Agriculture provides one in eight jobs, employing approximately 2.3 million Canadians. 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 agricultural 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.

Key risks

In 2018-19, the Department managed risks related to: catastrophic crisis; market disruption and trade uncertainty; and information management and information technology.

Catastrophic crisis

Emergencies, such as unexpected and severe events like weather disasters and animal or plant disease outbreaks, are occurring with increasing frequency and scale. The costs to respond to and recover from these emergency events also continue to rise. The Department's ability to respond to these emergency events may have implications for the Canadian economy, environmental and human health, and even loss of public trust if not managed effectively.

Market disruption and trade uncertainty

Many of the Department's results rely on progress being achieved in trade negotiations and agreements, as well as on market access being maintained and expanded for agriculture and agri-food products. Technical barriers to trade and border measures reduce opportunities abroad which in turn could impede the sector's competitiveness and potential growth. Trade policy and market access activities are important in supporting the sector's ability to capitalize on domestic and international market opportunities, the Department is committed to ensure the sector's access to domestic and international markets.

In response to the trade disruption risk for the canola industry as of March 2019, a Government of Canada canola working group was formed to collaborate with industry on approaches to resolve the issue. Other efforts are continuing into 2019–20 to address this situation.

Information management and information technology

Information management and information technology (IM/IT) are invaluable processes and tools in the planning and delivery of many of the Department's programs and services, including science and research. A responsive and capable IM/IT environment is essential in supporting the work across the Department. Any compromise (for example, due to security vulnerability or system outage) could harm our ability to effectively and efficiently deliver programs and services to Canadians.

The following risk table describes the risks the Department manages including the associated response strategies, link to the core responsibilities, mandate and other priorities.

Risks Response strategy Link to the department's core responsibilities Link to mandate letter commitments and any government wide or departmental priorities

Catastrophic crisis
The Department may not be prepared, including having the right people, systems and processes, to respond to catastrophic crises (natural, accidental, or intentional) in an effective manner which may have consequences for the agricultural sector, employees, and/or Canadians.

Monitoring activities and actions were determined to be tolerable based on the controls and the response strategy in place and/or being implemented.

The Department has made progress in developing and implementing a series of initiatives, in collaboration with other stakeholders, which help to define the Department's roles and responsibilities in emergency management.

The Department continues to work with provincial and territorial governments, under the federal, provincial and territorial Emergency Management Framework for Agriculture in Canada to focus on improving federal, provincial and territorial governments' ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies – thereby promoting the resilience, sustainability and competitiveness of the agriculture sector.

  • Domestic and international markets
  • Sector risk

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food mandate letter commitment:

  • Work with provinces, territories, and other willing partners, to help the sector adjust to climate change and better address water and soil conservation and development issues.

Departmental priorities:

Market disruption and trade uncertainty
The Department's ability to contribute to the opening, maintaining, and expanding of markets for Canadian agriculture and agri-food may be limited due to trade uncertainty, a changing trade environment, and potential market interruptions (such as protectionism, unfavorable changes to existing agreements or non-science-based trade barriers) which could limit sector growth and trade expansion.

Monitoring activities and actions were determined to be tolerable based on the controls and the response strategy in place and/or being implemented.

The Department has made progress in strengthening and enhancing trade relationships while working with partners, including other federal departments, provinces and territories, to assist industry in capitalizing on the gains negotiated under recent trade agreements.

The Department carried out activities to mitigate the risk of market disruption and trade uncertainty, including

  • implementing the Canadian Agricultural Partnership over the next five years,
  • negotiating new potential free trade agreements with key partners (for example, supporting the new Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement,
  • implementing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as, conducting other ongoing trade negotiations),
  • supporting Government of Canada trade diversification efforts,
  • activities undertaken to increase stakeholder awareness of international market opportunities, and
  • supporting the development of  international standards based on scientific evidence to facilitate trade for Canadian exporters.
  • Domestic and International Markets

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food mandate letter commitment:

  • Promote Canadian agricultural interests during future trade negotiations.



Departmental priorities:

  • Deliver the Canadian Agricultural Partnership
  • Enhance trade and support the sector to seize market opportunities

Information management and information technology
The Department's ability to adopt new services and technologies, including updating aging systems, may hinder our ability to effectively and efficiently deliver programs and services to Canadians.

Monitoring activities and actions were determined to be tolerable based on the controls and the response strategy in place and/or being implemented.

The Department has made progress in updating aging equipment and technology capacity.

The Department continues to implement measures to improve performance and capabilities of its essential information technology and services and prioritize investments to address emerging business requirements and trends in technologies. This supports proper information management and supporting technology that allows for an effective and responsive organization, meeting client needs and expectations across government, industry and academia.

  • Domestic and international markets
  • Science and innovation
  • Sector risk

Departmental priorities:

  • Deliver the Canadian Agricultural Partnership
  • Enhance trade and support the sector to seize market opportunities
  • Advance agriculture science and research to generate knowledge and innovation
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