Protecting the livelihoods of farmers and forestry professionals is at the heart of what the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry does.
In this parliamentary session, senators’ work has touched on a variety of topics, including international affairs, economics and the environment.
The committee’s study on facilitating international market access for Canada’s agriculture and agri-food sectors – which spanned two parliamentary sessions – concluded with the release of its report, Market Access: Giving Canadian Farmers and Processors the World, in May 2017.
During the course of this study, senators made their way to China, eastern and western Canada and consulted with approximately 500 witnesses and stakeholders. The report’s 18 recommendations outline ways to ensure Canadian products get to shelves around the world. The committee sees the “Canada Brand” as crucial to positioning the country’s world-renowned products on the international stage.
“Market access is dependent on two things: Food safety and food traceability. Canadian food products are world-class, from Quebec maple syrup to Alberta beef. In order to get those products onto the table in faraway places like China, we must ensure we are able to deliver the quality consumers have come to expect.”
Senators also listened to farmers’ concerns, specifically about the impact that the rising value of Canadian farmland is having on the farming sector and food supply. Farmland value varies across Canada and senators hope to ensure the sustainability of agriculture in Canada and to protect farmland for Canadians. Members of the committee also went to Washington D.C. in the spring of 2017 to discuss farmland acquisition with their American counterparts. A report on this topic is expected by the end of 2017.
The committee’s current undertaking, a study on the effects of climate change on Canada’s agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors, will touch on issues such as rising sea levels and changes in weather patterns. It will also address Canada’s efforts to meet its greenhouse gas emissions reduction commitments.
“Carbon pricing is a real issue for farmers as it may threaten their ability to compete in international markets. Our study aims to find solutions to ensure a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy.”
The committee also plans to consult international organizations involved in agriculture and climate change to bring a global perspective to its study and to learn from the experiences of other countries. When Parliament reconvenes in the fall of 2017, senators intend to continue their study on climate change with fact-finding missions to Halifax and Montreal.
This article is part of a series showcasing Senate committees — a report back to Canadians about the work committee members have accomplished during the past sitting of Parliament.
Committees are at the core of the Senate's work. They are recognized for their major contributions to legislation and public policy. Senator Muriel McQueen Fergusson, the first female Speaker of the Senate, called committees "the heart and soul of the Senate.”
In the last four years alone, over 7,500 witnesses have appeared before Senate committees, leading to the crafting of 531 reports and improved legislation.
Through this work, senators speak up for their regions and give a powerful voice to underrepresented groups like women, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and linguistic and visible minorities.