Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm so pleased to have this opportunity to meet with you for the first time.
As you know, these have been some very busy first weeks for me since I took over the portfolio at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada on March 1. I've embraced my new role with a lot of enthusiasm. I thought I had the best job as the Minister of International Development, but I must admit that I very much enjoy Agriculture and Agri-Food as well.
I will certainly be relying on the expertise around this table. Thank you for your important work. I know you are exploring the issues that matter for the industry—climate change, non-tariff trade barriers and a food policy for Canada, to name just a few.
This morning I am pleased to outline some of the key priorities we are focusing on at the department and across the government.
The government has high ambitions for our agricultural trade. Taken together, our trade agreements are giving our farmers a competitive edge in 60% of the global economy. Canada is the only G7 member to have trade agreements with all the others.
The government's top priority is to regain full market access for our canola seed exports to China. At the same time, we are ensuring Canadian producers have the support they need. The industry has been very clear that farmers will need additional assistance this year to manage cash flow pressures. That is why yesterday the Minister of International Trade Diversification and I announced that the federal government will amend the regulations of the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act to increase the loan limits under the advance payments program.
The regulatory amendment will change the loan limits for the advance payments program for 2019 as follows: Advances will increase from $400,000 to $1 million on all commodities, and the first $100,000 will remain interest-free on all commodities except canola, for which the interest-free advances will be eligible for up to $500,000. These measures will give producers the support they need to manage their cash flow. As well, we are extending the AgriStability enrolment deadline by two months without penalty, from April 30 to July 2.
These measures reflect the commitment of federal and provincial governments to work together to respond to the needs of farmers and industry. Our working group with industry and provinces has been meeting weekly, and today again, and is focused on supporting the sector, including the importance of diversifying into new markets.
Our canola working group has been meeting weekly to discuss ways of supporting the sector, including the importance of diversifying into new markets.
We are diversifying our trade through agreements like the CPTPP, which will eliminate tariffs on canola products going into Japan. Already, Canadian beef exports to Japan have doubled in the first two months of 2019, compared to the same period last year. And Canadian pork exports to that country increased by nearly 14%.
Next week, I will travel to Japan to participate in the G20 agriculture ministers' meeting. While in Japan, I will meet with Japanese industry leaders and officials from several countries to advance Canada's agricultural trade.
We are optimistic that, as more Canadians pursue opportunities created by the CPTPP and the free trade agreement with Europe, we will see these numbers grow.
At the same time, we are protecting our pork industry by taking measures to keep African swine fever out of Canada.
Canadian pork producers depend on exports to sell 70% of their production. We are investing in stronger border controls and stronger inspection of feed imports.
Canada is taking international leadership on African swine fever. On Tuesday, I addressed an international forum on the subject that we organized in partnership with the United States. Twenty-five countries participated, including the European Union.
Canada's trade strategy is strong and balanced. At the same time, we know that our trade agreements have impacts on our dairy, poultry and egg producers, who are subject to supply management.
That is why the 2019 budget proposes an investment of up to $3.9 billion to deal with income losses associated with the CPTPP and the free-trade agreement with Europe, and to protect against any reduction in quota value.
Since I took the position, I have had many meetings with producers, processors and those who represent them. I also attended the first meeting of the strategic working group for dairy. Our common goal is the long-term competitiveness of our dairy, poultry and egg producers.
Another major priority for us is to launch a food policy for Canada.
Last week, we had a great discussion on the food policy with some key stakeholders at the food security symposium in Toronto.
In the 2019 budget, we are proposing to invest $134.4 million to support the food policy, the first of its kind for Canada. The policy sets out an ambitious vision of ensuring that all people in Canada are able to access a sufficient amount of safe, nutritious, and culturally diverse food. It seeks to make Canada's food system resilient and innovative, to sustain our environment, and to support our economy.
The future is full of promise for Canada's agriculture and agri-food industry. Demand for Canadian food continues to rise, and Canada has the competitive advantages to meet that demand sustainably.
I look forward to working with you and all stakeholders to help our agriculture and agri-food sector grow, innovate, and prosper.