Evidence of meeting #68 for Agriculture and Agri-Food in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was eggs.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Gordon Harrison  President, Canadian National Millers Association
Patrick McGuinness  Interim President, Fisheries Council of Canada
Jason McLinton  Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada
Dave Carey  Executive Director, Canadian Seed Trade Association
Roger Pelissero  Chairman, Egg Farmers of Canada
Tim Lambert  Chief Executive Officer, Egg Farmers of Canada

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Harrison. Unfortunately, we're out of time.

Mr. Drouin, you have six minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses for being here.

One of the issues we talked about is food waste. The biggest question is how do you make sure that people at home don't waste? Just to look at my personal example, for instance, I'll have milk after the due date, but my better half will not touch it at all. It doesn't mean that food is bad; it's just that she will not have it. What do you think the solution is to educate the population in terms of minimizing food waste at home?

4:20 p.m.

Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada

Jason McLinton

If I may take that, Mr. Drouin, there's a role, obviously, for government to play, and there's a role for industry to play. Again, from a retail perspective, we have direct interface with the consumer, so we have a role to play in that as well.

Your example is a really good one, in that there's a difference between expiry date and best-before date. Madam Brosseau referred to northern communities. This is particularly important in northern communities, for example, where there may be products that are perfectly safe to consume but that are past their best-before date, which is literally what that means: it's past that certain freshness date but it is perfectly safe to consume. I don't know if public-private partnership is the right term, but there's a role for industry to play, in partnership with government, in order to get that message to Canadians.

If I may, Mr. Drouin, I just want to touch on something that Madam Brosseau said around opportunities for alignment. Right now I believe there are five labelling proposals out there between CFIA and Health Canada. There's front-of-pack labelling. There's the best-before date—we were talking just now about best-before date and expiry date. There's the nutrition facts table. Every time a label needs to be changed, you don't just add something to it. There's a team of experts who sit down, from different companies, marketing, and food safety, and it involves an entire redesign. Imagine doing that for every single product. Our members sell hundreds of thousands of products. An opportunity for alignment would be to make sure that all of these proposals that allow for one product redesign come into force at the same time. These costs do not get absorbed into the system. Every cost that is incurred by industry ultimately gets passed onto Canadian consumers. It would be a real opportunity to do all of these at once.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Do you have any statistics in terms of how many consumers actually look at the labels on the back? I know the comprehension of the labels is not there, but actually looking at them as well, does your industry have statistics on that?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada

Jason McLinton

I do not have statistics on that, no.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Go ahead, Mr. Harrison.

4:25 p.m.

President, Canadian National Millers Association

Gordon Harrison

I invite some research to be done by the committee analysts, but I believe the information would indicate that perhaps as many as 75% to 80% of Canadians don't really read labels very often unless it says “new” or “improved” or they've never seen the product before. It's a very low level, as I understand it, but there are data out there. I'm sorry that we don't have them for you today.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

I'll just go back to the Retail Council.

I'm sorry, Mr. McGuinness, did you want to add anything before I go on?

4:25 p.m.

Interim President, Fisheries Council of Canada

Patrick McGuinness

Not right now.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

You sort of had your seven-point plan. One of them is that governments have a role to play in affordable food, and we think about the nutrition north program. Is that what you're referring to?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada

Jason McLinton

Yes, exactly. Our members take accessibility very seriously, so they engage in a number of programs. There are breakfast programs, for example. There are backpack programs for kids to bring food to school. Through most of our members, you can order food online. There's home delivery. There are all sorts of programs out there to ensure accessibility. The point there is that government, to use the example of nutrition north, has a role to play. If it's not economically viable to open a grocery store, I think it behooves governments to create conditions that would be economically viable. If we want a grocery store in a certain community, for example, whether it's through tax incentives or whatever else, government should make it attractive for business to open, and businesses will open. That's the idea there, that if government facilitates that, if government builds it, they will come.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

One of the last witnesses we had at the last committee meeting talked about food security and its whole transportation corridor. I was using just the simple example that, if Highway 401 or autoroute 40 in Quebec closed down for 48 hours, your members' shelves would probably be empty. Has there been any thought about how we should address that or how your members have done so? Are there strategies in place to make sure that food security is in place in case unpredictable events happen?

4:25 p.m.

Vice-President, Grocery Division and Regulatory Affairs, Retail Council of Canada

Jason McLinton

Absolutely, yes. I don't know that the members would speak of it in terms of specifically “food security”, but it doesn't make good business sense to not have product to sell to consumers, so they have a number of vendors and a number of suppliers. Again, it depends on seasonality and all this sort of thing.

That goes back to the point that I made about the critical role that imports play. Of course every member has a different business model and different suppliers—some have more local suppliers and some fewer—but all of them have a range of suppliers so that if, for instance, the 40 or the 401 were closed, hopefully that other highway or the local roads would not be. There are numerous suppliers. They don't speak of it in those terms, but it doesn't make good business sense to not have shelves that are stocked.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Thanks.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I think that will, unfortunately, wrap up this hour. I want to thank our guests.

For your information, I just want to point out that the next information package we'll have will show the stats from 2010 on food waste. I don't think there are any stats on how many people look at the label, but on food waste itself, we'll have it in our next package.

Thank you for coming to testify today Mr. Harrison, Mr. McGuinness and Mr. McLinton.

We'll take a short break and be back with the second hour.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

I would ask the guests to take their seats.

For the second hour we will hear from the Canadian Seed Trade Association, Mr. Dave Carey, executive director. Welcome, Mr. Carey. From the Egg Farmers of Canada, we have Mr. Tim Lambert, chief executive officer, and Mr. Roger Pelissero, chairman.

We'll start with the trade association. You have up to seven minutes for an opening statement.

4:35 p.m.

Dave Carey Executive Director, Canadian Seed Trade Association

Mr. Chair, honourable members, on behalf of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, or CSTA, I'd like to thank the committee for your invitation to discuss our perspective on the food policy for Canada.

Before I make some comments, I'd like to just quickly frame up who we are and what our members are about, to give you the context of what we're speaking about.

CSTA is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, voluntary trade association based here in Ottawa. We have more than 130 company and association members that are engaged in all aspects of seed, from research and development and plant breeding, to production and processing, marketing, distribution, and sales, and the sales are both domestic and international.

Our members serve the needs of their farmer customers by developing seed produced through various production methods, including organic, conventional, and biotechnological. They range from small family-owned businesses to large multinational firms. Our members work with over 50 different crop kinds, ranging from corn, canola, and soybeans, to wheat, barley and oats, forages and grasses, and vegetable and garden seed.

The seed industry contributes about $6 billion to the Canadian economy annually, and employs more than 57,000 Canadians. It exports close to half a billion dollars a year worth of product to more than 70 countries.

Seed may seem at first glance to be far removed from a national food policy, but it's important to remember that seed is the start of it all, the first step in the agriculture and agrifood value chain. Our members are the ones who develop the varieties through breeding programs and produce the seed that is planted across the country. Seed that our members produce becomes the crops that are harvested and processed, and ultimately end up on the grocery store shelves.

According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, nine out of 10 bites of food start with the planting of seed. Any national food policy must keep in mind where food comes from and take a holistic approach to the entire value-chain process. CSTA therefore views three key components as being critical in the development of a successful and robust food policy.

The first is education. Canadian farmers have done an exceptional job in producing an abundant, affordable, safe, and nutritious food supply, so much so that most Canadians are far removed from primary agriculture and unaware of exactly how food is being produced, and ending up at their local Loblaws or Metro. Food security has never been an issue for most parts of Canada. We are fortunate to be a net exporter of agricultural goods. As such, CSTA views a national food policy as an excellent tool to educate and inform the Canadian public about the agricultural value chain and build an awareness of what it truly takes to feed a growing world.

More education is needed across the country to encourage Canadians to learn where their food comes from, and how nutritious, affordable meals can easily be made. There's also the opportunity to dispel mistruths about modern agriculture and promote the fact that farming has never been more environmentally sustainable.

Second, it requires the whole of government. Food policy cannot be developed in a vacuum. It needs to be developed using the whole-of-government approach that cuts across departments and agencies, and it also takes into account other government initiatives under way.

The federal government currently has several initiatives under way that must be taken into account when designing a food policy. For example, Canada's healthy eating strategy, the proposed safe food for Canadians regulations, and CFIA's plants and animals health strategy. There are a lot of moving parts that must be complementary or the results will be policies and initiatives that are misaligned and/or contradictory. We hope that those leading each of these initiatives are in regular discussions with one another. It is important to ask how a food policy fits with all this other work under way.

We must also ask ourselves how we can design a food policy with the goal of affordable food without addressing regulatory burdens and policy misalignment that impact production costs. How can we expect more from agriculture, and in particular farmers, without removing impediments that stifle growth, let alone adding new ones?

Lastly, a food policy must be grounded in transparent, risk-based science with objectives that are clear, measurable, and reproducible. Sometimes, scientific decisions aren't the popular ones to make, but we must be steadfast. This government has made growing Canada's agrifood industry a key priority, as evidenced by both the Barton report and the subsequent budget that sets out to increase agrifood exports to $75 billion by 2025.

A food policy based solely on affordable food will not help achieve this goal. Again, we need to make sure our policies are aligned and complementary.

As this committee deliberates, I would ask that you keep in mind what the agriculture industry needs to be successful, to thrive, to innovate, and ultimately to produce safe, healthy, and affordable food for Canadians.

The agriculture industry is concerned about is continued access to key crop protection products that they rely on. The Pest Management Regulatory Agency is currently proposing, in some cases, to cancel the registration of products where no viable alternative exists. Crop protection products are critical for food production and growers need these effective tools to continue to provide high quality food in a sustainable production system.

This policy also cannot be developed solely at the federal level; there must be engagement at the provincial level. Whether that's through the FPT process, I leave to you.

For example, in Ontario we have regulations. Quebec is now proposing regulations that would severely restrict growers' access to the use of critical crop-protection products. Alberta has a zero-tolerance policy for fusarium, despite its being widely established across Canada and in Alberta as well. These regulations are not founded in science and they create a patchwork of different provincial rules. Without alignment across the country, we cannot hope to reach the stated goals of a food policy.

In conclusion, CSTA is supportive of the minister's mandate to “Develop a food policy that promotes healthy living and safe food by putting more healthy, high-quality food, produced by Canadian ranchers and farmers, on the tables of families across the country.” However, this policy must have clear priorities, must be easy to administer and oversee, and cannot be weighed down by competing priorities such as wanting farmers to produce more food for less but limiting their access to essential tools to be more productive. The left hand needs to be speaking to the right.

I would welcome any questions that you have today.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Carey.

We go now to the Egg Farmers of Canada for seven minutes.

September 21st, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.

Roger Pelissero Chairman, Egg Farmers of Canada

Good afternoon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank everybody for inviting us here today to be part of your study on a food policy for Canada.

My name is Roger Pelissero. I am a third-generation egg farmer from St. Ann's, Ontario, and I'm also the chair of the board for the Egg Farmers of Canada. With me today is Mr. Tim Lambert, CEO of Egg Farmers of Canada.

As we all know, the world's population is estimated to grow to 9.6 billion people by 2050, requiring a 70% increase in global food production. It is our belief that this impending population growth makes safe, secure domestic food production even more pressing, and the Canadian egg industry is a success story in that regard. We are an industry equipped to not only meet today's domestic demands for a fresh, nutritious food; we also aim to grow our industry alongside increasing consumer demand for our product, the humble egg.

I am proud to be here today representing Canada's more than 1,000 family egg farms across this country. Our decades of expertise as a food-producing industry lead us to believe that a national food policy must begin with evidence-based research. This allows us to benchmark progress with reliable metrics rather than perception.

Canadian eggs are produced in all 10 provinces and in the Northwest Territories. They are, by nature, best produced locally and consumed fresh. They are also one of the most affordable sources of high-quality protein you can buy. To put it in perspective, a dozen eggs costs less than the price of a latte. Further to this, every Canadian egg farmer is committed to continuous improvements in food safety and animal welfare. We do this through our national programs that hold our members to a common set of standards. We run these programs so that we can offer Canadians a firm guarantee: that their eggs are fresh, healthy, and safe, and produced on family farms that are held to the highest standards.

To ensure that our industry continues to thrive for generations to come, it is our hope that the theme “growing more high-quality food” remains at the forefront of the food policy for Canada discussion and that farmers remain engaged in that process. Dialogue focused on expanding Canada's agriculture sector by supporting primary producers is a critical concept in the long-term vision to enhance Canada's food system. As the government looks to increase availability of high-quality food domestically and internationally, it is important to maintain support for domestic policies like supply management that offer a secure food supply, and support to young people willing to take on a career in agriculture. Your support in these areas offers stability to farmers who reinvest in their operations and in their industry.

One example of this investment is environmental sustainability. The transition to a greener economy is accelerating fast, and the same principles hold true for farming. Thanks to the stability of supply management, egg farmers have seized the opportunity to take a leading role in preserving the environment, by producing more with less. In fact, over the the last 50 years, Canada's egg industry has sliced its environmental footprint by half and at the same time doubled its production.

As the government continues to bolster practices that conserve soil, water, and air, egg farmers are investing in research that will identify further opportunities to make egg farming more environmentally sound. Canadian egg farmers are proud to provide the constant supply of fresh, local, and high-quality eggs that Canadians want to buy and enjoy, and look forward to working with you to build and expand a food policy for Canada that truly works.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Pelissero.

Now we'll start our second round of questions.

Oh, I'm sorry, Mr. Lambert. That latte really got me off track.

4:45 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:45 p.m.

Tim Lambert Chief Executive Officer, Egg Farmers of Canada

Thank you.

I echo Roger's thanks. We appreciate being part of this.

We understand that one of the priorities of the food policy is to help Canadians make healthier food choices and to deliver food that is as safe as possible. Under this framework, we think that building and nurturing public trust is of paramount importance.

If you don't know, our industry, the egg industry, has grown by close to 30% in the last decade. That very much is a direct response to consumers seeking to eat better. The good news about the nutritional benefits of eggs is becoming better understood, and we're seeing tremendous growth in our industry. Also, as Roger referenced, in terms of producing eggs, one of our priorities is not just producing more and producing higher quality, but producing food sustainably. We think that's of critical importance.

As the government looks to revise important policies and resources that help Canadians make decisions on the food they offer their families, what's really important—Mr. Carey said it and Roger said it—is that we need evidence-based research and we need evidence-based decision-making. Incomplete or inaccurate information is going to lead to confusion for consumers and unintended consequences for the agriculture sector.

Our members and colleagues have expressed a great deal of concern over the highly anticipated food guide, which we expect to be released in early 2018. It's our belief that a focus on protein sources that are nutrient rich is more important than emphasizing plant-based protein sources alone. In fact, it's been well proven that the bioavailability of protein from animal sources is superior to that of plant-based sources. Our point here is about not favouring one or the other. It's about balance and evidence-based research.

It's also important that the guide encourage food items that offer a broad nutritional package rather than limiting foods containing specific nutrients such as saturated fat. Further to this, encouraging Canadians to eat according to overall healthy eating patterns is a more efficient way to meet requirements for important nutrients such as iron, zinc, vitamin D, calcium, and vitamin B12. It is our hope that the new food guide and the broader food policy for Canada include these considerations and are supported by objective science.

Finally, we know that farmers are significant contributors to the economy and are major employers in rural regions. It is these rural communities that are the heart of a strong national food strategy. We believe that our growing global population needs more food such as eggs—affordable, rich in protein, nutritious, and healthy—so we act to help make sure more people can benefit from our work. Our farmers donate more than three million eggs every year to community food banks and also support breakfast clubs in schools.

We also look to share our knowledge internationally through the International Egg Foundation. The foundation's flagship project, led by our farmers, has built an egg farm in Swaziland, Africa, and we supply over 4,000 eggs each and every day to orphans in that country. That's just one example of how our farmers are committed to giving back and to helping more people benefit from the high-quality protein found in eggs.

In conclusion, Canadian egg farmers are well positioned to help shape a strong and vibrant food policy for Canada. We look forward to working with you to build a strategy that not only works for our fellow Canadians, but strengthens Canada's position as a global leader in food production.

Thank you.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Thank you, Mr. Lambert.

Mr. Barlow, you have six minutes.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Merci, Mr. Chairman.

Really quickly, I've revised our motion by Mr. Berthold and I want to submit a revised motion for next week, please.

Thank you. We'll table it for next week.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Pat Finnigan

Okay.