Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's a pleasure to be here again.
Good day, everyone.
I am pleased to be here with my deputy minister; Jaspinder Komal; and Christine Walker, assistant deputy minister of the corporate management branch.
I want to thank the committee for its excellent work on supporting the agriculture and food sector. The members of the committee are working together to address some of the pressing priorities for Canadian farmers.
In particular, I want to thank the committee for its study on mental health, focusing on farmers, ranchers and producers. You heard some very interesting testimony, and I'm pleased that this committee has brought this issue into the spotlight for Canadian agriculture. I know that it's also an issue that is very close to the heart of my parliamentary secretary, Jean-Claude Poissant. I am pleased that we are partnering with a number of organizations that have launched some great initiatives on mental health.
Mr. Chair, my message to you today is that our government will continue to work with you to grow the Canadian agriculture and food sector.
Today, I would like to touch on four key points: the fall economic statement, supplementary estimates (A), progress and priorities, and challenges and opportunities for the sector.
Last week, the government released its fall economic statement. It shows that our plan for strengthening the middle class and growing the economy is working. Our government knows that Canadian farmers and food processors are key drivers for the Canadian economy.
That is why the fall economic statement includes many measures to support continued growth. We will invest $25 million to remove non-tariff barriers to agricultural trade and hire more agricultural trade commissioners. We will improve our tax system so that farmers can grow their businesses. Food processors and manufacturers will be able to immediately write off the cost of capital investments like machinery or equipment. Farmers will be able to write off a larger portion of the depreciation in the year an investment is made for purchase of buildings, machinery and equipment. This has been a major ask by the farm community, and we have delivered.
As the president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture said, “This fiscal update shows that the Federal Government is taking the right steps to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of Canada's agricultural sector.... It is very heartening to see the government is listening to farmers and, more importantly, acting on what they hear. These initiatives are an [important] step towards harnessing the potential of Canadian agriculture.”
As you can see, the supplementary estimates (A) are just over $30 million. That's on top of the main estimates for 2018-19 of just over $2.5 billion.
The supplementary estimates (A) include an investment to advance agricultural discovery science and innovation. It's part of the government's investment of $70 million to help farmers manage climate change and conserve our soil, air and water, and to hire 75 new agricultural scientists to keep our industry on the cutting edge.
Mr. Chair, since we last met, we have marked a couple of major milestones in the industry.
On September 30, Canada reached a trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. With this agreement, we have maintained the tariff-free access to the American market for Canadian exports that we enjoyed under NAFTA. That's good news for the 1.9 million Canadians whose jobs depend on trade with the U.S. For our farmers and food processors, we have protected our $30 billion in agri-food exports to the United States. Throughout the negotiations, the government worked extremely hard to advance the interests of Canadian farmers and food processors.
At the same time, we fully recognize that the agreement will impact farmers and processors under the supply management system. It is important to remember that this U.S. administration was calling for a complete dismantlement of the supply management system. Our government defended and preserved our system from these very strong American attempts to see it dismantled. I can assure the committee that our dairy, poultry and egg producers will be fully and fairly supported for any market losses.
Before we do that, we will sit down with processors and producers. That is why we are forming working groups to develop strategies for the short term and the long term. Our common goal is to help our dairy, poultry and egg sectors innovate and drive our economy for future generations.
The second major milestone occurred on October 25, when Bill C-79 to implement the CPTPP received royal assent. This landmark agreement is part of the government's strategy to diversify our trade. With Canada being one of the first six countries to ratify it, our farmers would be among the first to benefit. Tariffs will be eliminated on a wide range of Canadian exports, including meat, grains, pulses, maple syrup, wines and spirits, seafood and agri-food products. There are estimates that this agreement will put an additional $2 billion in the pockets of farmers. In Japan alone, our pork producers are looking at new sales of over $600 million.
In October, I led a trade mission to Europe, where we worked to maximize our opportunities under CETA. At the same time, we continue to defend our interests abroad. While in Italy and Brussels, I expressed Canada's concern with Italy's mandatory country-of-origin labelling required on durum wheat pasta. I took every opportunity to promote and defend Canada's farmers, their quality products, and free trade based on a science-based system.
Our government has signed the biggest trade agreement in Canadian history with the world's largest trading blocs in Europe, North America and the Pacific. We have firmly maintained the three pillars of our supply management system, and at the same time we've given farmers and processors access to a full two-thirds of the global economy.
We're not stopping there. Earlier this month, I was proud to lead a delegation of over 300 on a trade mission to China. I am proud to report that our agri-food exporters signed 18 agreements with Chinese partners. We expect to generate about $640 million in new sales as a result of this mission. We successfully promoted our world-class Canadian food and beverages, and we worked with industry to grow their sales in this vital market for our farmers and food processors.
As members are aware, we have set a target of $75 billion for agriculture and agri-food exports by 2025, and I am confident we will meet and exceed that target.
Of course, none of this can happen without investment. Over the past seven months, investments have been rolled out under the Canadian agricultural partnership. As well as trade, science and sustainability are key priorities for the partnership. Science is keeping our industry on the cutting edge. Over the past several months, we have announced investments of over $75 million in science clusters for a wide range of sectors.
I am proud to be a member of Parliament and a farmer. Those were the two things I did in my life. It was just over 30 years ago, on November 21, that the people of Cardigan elected me for the first time. I have always been extremely proud to represent the people of Prince Edward Island. I am extremely proud to represent Canadian farmers, whether in the House of Commons, travelling across our country, or around the world. We have the best farmers and ranchers in the world, and it truly is a source of pride to represent them.
When I look ahead at the prospects for the industry, I see a great future. This past summer, I had the privilege of visiting some of our outstanding farmers and food processors on a tour across the country. It's truly amazing. Our farmers and processors are innovators. They are passionate about agriculture, and they are driving our economy. Truly, the future of our industry is in good hands.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.