Madam Speaker, it is always great to rise to speak in this most honourable of House.
I would like to first offer thanks to the member for Foothills for his work with regard to the agricultural sector in Canada. I know the hon. member is a champion for the agricultural sector in the area he represents. We all come here championing our causes and issues, and I would like to speak to the hon. member's private member's bill this evening.
The government welcomes the opportunity to speak to the importance of supporting Canadian farmers. Now, more than ever, farmers face increasing hardships. These range from sustained supply chain issues to the rising costs of doing business.
Moreover, the effects of climate change and the risk of harmful and deadly animal diseases are only compounding these difficulties. It feels like farmers cannot catch a break. It is crucial that we provide these hard-working Canadians and their families with the tools they need to do their jobs safely so that they can be competitive and ensure the safety of their animals or livestock.
I would like to take a few minutes to speak to importance of the agri-food system in Canada and the actions that our government is taking to support Canadian farmers across the country.
The agriculture and agri-food system is a key pillar of Canada's economy. In 2021, it employed 2.1 million people in Canada, representing one out of every nine jobs. In the same year, Canada exported nearly $82.2 billion in agriculture and food products, making us one of the top 10 exporters of agri-food and seafood in the world, something of which we can be quite proud.
It is safe to say that agriculture touches every Canadian. In fact, the agriculture sector is very broad and encompasses federal, provincial and territorial governments, industry partners and farmers. Each of these groups plays a unique and indispensable role to keep Canadian livestock safe and healthy.
I can proudly say that the Government of Canada takes its role seriously in supporting Canadian farmers and in supporting the Canadian agri-food sector. We have a long record of championing initiatives that protect and grow our agriculture and agri-food sector.
Just recently, budget 2023 announced a number of initiatives to respond to the emerging needs of the Canadian agriculture industry. These included $333 million to establish a dairy innovation and investment fund to increase revenues for dairy farmers; $34 million to support farmers for diversifying away from certain fertilizers; and $13 million to increase the interest-free limit of loans under the advance payments program to provide additional cash flow to farmers in need.
Budget 2023 also announced $57.5 million over five years to establish a vaccine bank for foot and mouth disease so that farmers can maintain market access for their livestock and protect their livelihood in the event of an outbreak.
In addition, the government has a history of working closely with provinces and territories to support economic growth for the agriculture and agri-food sector.
For example, the sustainable Canadian agricultural partnership was launched on April 1. The renewal of this important five-year policy framework will benefit farmers and processors from across all of Canada. The sustainable Canadian agricultural partnership has set aside $3.5 billion, up 25% from the previous 2018 to 2023 agreement, to strengthen the competitiveness, innovation and resiliency of the agriculture sector.
This partnership agreement recognizes what we already know, that farming is a difficult job. That is why the government is also committed to supporting the mental health of Canadians, including farmers and their families. For instance, under the Canadian agricultural partnership, it provided $7 million for two multi-year mental health initiatives to support farmers.
In addition, the government funds the Wellness Together Canada portal. This portal operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week. It provides free, credible information to individuals to help address their mental health and substance use issues. The Wellness Together Canada portal also provides information and self-assessment tools, peer support networks and access to psychologists and other professionals.
This government recognizes that meaningful support to farmers must recognize both economic and psychological hardships.
I understand that Bill C-275 tries to protect farmers by minimizing risks to on-farm biosecurity. Let me be clear that the government takes these risks seriously. Disease outbreaks can have major impacts on animal welfare and food supply, and result in economic losses. We also know that farmers are also focused on biosecurity as they too care about the health and well-being of their animals.
It is important to note that the health of animals and biosecurity measures are a shared responsibility among the federal government, the provinces and territories, industry associations and farmers.
Recognizing the importance of biosecurity in preventing the spread of animal disease, the Government of Canada has championed efforts and has provided funding to strengthen on-farm biosecurity. For instance, federal funds helped support the development of 14 commodity-specific national biosecurity standards. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, industry, academic institutions, and provinces and territories developed these voluntary national biosecurity standards, protocols and strategies to protect animals from disease.
Additionally, through the federal AgriAssurance program and its predecessors, the government has provided industry associations with funding to develop on-farm assurance programs that include biosecurity protocols. Several of these associations, such as the Dairy Farmers of Canada and the Chicken Farmers of Canada, have on-farm programs that include biosecurity requirements.
In addition, under the Canadian agricultural partnership, federal, provincial and territorial governments have advanced a number of cost-shared investments that support biosecurity. Some recent examples include funding of up to $1.5 million for the poultry biosecurity preparedness initiative in Ontario, and up to $45.3 million to fund efforts that enhance Canada's African swine fever response, including actions to mitigate risks to biosecurity.
These examples all highlight the important work and investment that farmers, industry associations, provinces and territories, and the Government of Canada have all made toward on-farm biosecurity. There is a collective recognition that on-farm biosecurity is an important measure to safeguard animal health and to minimize the risk of animal disease outbreaks in order to protect the livelihood of Canada's agri-food producers. To really help farmers, we should be championing the use of these on-farm biosecurity standards and protocols and encouraging their use.
In conclusion, the government recognizes the hard work, day in and day out, of Canadian farmers, their families and agriculture producers along the complete agricultural continuum, and it is responding to the sector's needs. The government is interested in supporting legislation that builds on the investments that various partners, including farmers themselves, have already made to improve animal health on farms.
We look forward to studying Bill C-275 at committee and discussing ways that it can be amended to recognize and build on the great work farmers, their families, the communities involved and others are doing to support biosecurity measures on farm.