Madam Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Winnipeg North.
I would like to thank the hon. member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for raising this very important issue.
Today my colleagues have talked about the factors that affect food prices and our efforts to ensure Canadians have access to healthy and affordable food. There has been a lot of talk about retail prices, inflation and tax havens, but I want to approach the issue from a new angle.
Specifically, I am talking about food on store shelves that is coming from producers. Canadian farmers produce the best food in Canada and provide quality, nutritious products for Canadians across the country.
This week, the House began the second reading of Bill S‑227 to establish food day in Canada. My riding has a lot of agriculture-related businesses, each more diverse than the last, and I have had the opportunity to look at the issue of the price of food on store shelves. The producers have helped me understand certain things, and I would like to share that with the House.
This food day is very important for the people of Argenteuil—La Petite-Nation. It will strengthen ties between consumers and farmers by showcasing the richness and diversity of the local, high-quality and safe food they produce. It is important to have food, especially fresh and healthy food.
We need to remind Canadians that the agri-food sector contributes significantly to Canada's economic, social and environmental well-being and the health of Canadians. Everyone is facing the same problems these days related to labour shortages and transportation. Our schools providing training in the food-related trades are even having a hard time recruiting people. We are starting from a very long way down in the food chain.
Across Canada, food producers and processors are the engine of our economy. They contribute more than $130 billion to Canada's GDP and account for over $80 billion in exports. In addition, one in nine jobs created is food related. I would also like to highlight the contribution of all workers in the agriculture and agri-food sector, from farm to fork.
Last week, I had the opportunity to celebrate a third-generation dairy farmer in my riding. As many of us know, it is increasingly difficult to recruit the next generation of farmers, and it is increasingly difficult to ensure the survival of these industries that put food on our plates.
Over the past two years of the pandemic, farmers truly have taken the lead to ensure that Canadians have the safe, high quality and local food they need.
The pandemic may be an excuse, but it has certainly renewed the loyalty of Canadians for the fabulous local food and drink produced by Canadian producers and processors.
Buying local has become more popular than ever. More than 90% of Canadians say they look for locally produced products to support the local economy and reduce the impact on the environment, or the “food miles”. People are trying to reduce how far food is transported and to create a local synergy so that we can consume local more.
Today, more and more consumers want to know where their food comes from. They want to know whether the food is organic and how it is grown. They want to know what they are eating and to understand the growing and livestock living conditions. Consumers want to reconnect to agriculture and support the local economy.
The agriculture and agri-food sector has a lot to gain by reinforcing the relationship that has been established with its clients. It is a new way of thinking about our producers and farmers that we have not seen in the past decades.
Establishing direct contact with Canadians fosters dialogue about consumer values and industry practices. As a result, consumers can make informed decisions and the industry could focus its investment on continually improving its production practices.
I believe that many consumers would be impressed to see the progress made In Canadian agricultural operations in recent years.
Last week, in my riding, I met another dairy producer who uses robotics. He uses advanced technologies to improve milking and care for his cows and to put more products on our tables and plates. The era of pitchforks and horse-drawn carriages is over.
Farmers are using state-of-the-art tools to improve efficiency and adopt sustainable agricultural practices. Technology is opening up new horizons for food and agriculture and for other sectors of the economy. We must adapt to climate change. We must innovate and we must be there to anticipate climate change.
Precision farming now allows farmers to adjust inputs such as water and fertilizer and even to identify the plants that need them. Farmers can work smarter when it comes to procuring what is needed for production. Thus, farmers can save money and reduce their impact on the environment by using fewer inputs. This allows them to do more with less.
Farmers now use drones to detect pests, nutrient deficiencies in crops and weeds. Today, the possibilities for this technology are endless.
Farms have also made many advances in animal health and food safety. Many farms have strict biosecurity measures in place. Today, all of these measures must be considered. We must consider more than just inflation when looking at the price of food on store shelves. We have to look at the whole supply chain, beginning with our producers.
Today, our producers are doing better with technology, but factors such as transportation, labour shortages and climate change have a direct impact on consumer prices.
Many farms are implementing biosecurity measures. For example, access to a hog farm now requires showers on entry and exit to maintain animal health. That is just one example.
Responsible use of animal health products is another way farmers can keep animals healthy while ensuring food safety. Producers face many restrictions, and we need to reach out to them to make them better. Farmers care about food safety as much as they care about the environment. It is critical to their success.
More than ever before, their clients in Canada and abroad want to know where their food comes from, how it was produced and what its ecological footprint is. They also want to know how we ensure the animals are well treated. Public trust is valuable and we must find new ways to strengthen our connection with consumers. That is why the bill to establish food day in Canada is so important.
Last year, the government put in place another measure to strengthen confidence in Canadian foods by launching the agricommunication initiative, which aims to build stronger links between Canadians and the agricultural sector. Agricommunication will help farmers discuss their concerns with Canadians. That is why I regularly consult the producers in my riding to find out how we could do better. The way they take care of our environment and their animals is important, now more than ever. They are stepping up their efforts to implement sustainable practices.
The initiative will enable us to gather more information so we can help producers learn more about consumer expectations. Organizations can use the funding to develop digital communications products for consumers that show how producers are fighting climate change by practising crop rotation and using green technology. I heard about this last week in my riding. This funding can also help not-for-profit groups organize events like farm tours to show members of the public how farmers care for their animals, the soil and the water.
In closing, our government is working tirelessly to ensure the safety and security of our food supply, strengthen connections from farm to table, support local farmers, celebrate our wonderful local foods and ensure that all Canadians have access to the healthy food they need.