Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Kootenay—Columbia for introducing this bill to celebrate national local food day.
I think it is a great day in the House any time we have the chance to talk about agriculture and food. Our farmers and food processors work hard every single day to put food on our tables, and they contribute to Canada's sovereignty by ensuring a safe and healthful food supply.
I consider it a privilege to rise today to acknowledge their contribution to our great country. That is why I welcome Bill C-281, which our government is happy to support because the importance of food and farming to the health of our citizens cannot be overstated. Canada has a global reputation as a producer of healthful food.
From gate to plate, the agriculture and agrifood sector generates over $114 billion of our gross domestic product. Canada's agricultural sector is booming, and people are taking notice. The Advisory Council on Economic Growth, chaired by Dominic Barton, has recognized its huge potential. The advisory council pointed to agriculture as one of the key growth sectors of our economy, one that can help unlock a prosperous future for our economy, our middle class and our nation.
Global demand for food is growing at a record pace. It is estimated that farmers will have to produce as much food over the next 45 years as they did over the past 10,000 years. Not only is demand for food growing, it is growing for the kind of top-quality foods that Canada's industry can deliver. That is why our government has set an ambitious target to grow our agrifood exports to at least $75 million by 2025. We are well on our way to hitting that target.
While Canada can play an important role in helping feed the world, there are also new opportunities for producers and processors closer to home. The fuel that is going to power this economic engine is our local farmers and processors. That is why I am pleased to voice our government's support for this bill.
A national local food day would be an opportunity to recognize the contribution of agriculture and food to local economies. It would be an opportunity for Canadians to learn more about how the food they eat makes it to their dinner tables. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to recognize our hardworking farmers and food processors. There is no doubt that more and more Canadians are putting local food on their tables. According to last year's chef survey by Restaurants Canada, eating local is one of the top five trends on Canadian menus.
Many provinces have already introduced initiatives to buy local. These initiatives help showcase local ingredients and capitalize on the explosive growth of culinary tourism. They can help bring together all the players, from farmers to chefs, in order to promote local food and stimulate the economy. They also help boost sales of local products to tourists and local residents, who are better able to identify locally grown foods. These buy local initiatives also contribute to increasing export sales should a region become known as the supplier of choice for certain foods.
When consumers choose to eat local foods, they create specialized markets and local supply chains for small and medium sized farms and businesses. The local food systems can provide distinct food choices that incorporate local flavours. In the riding of Saint-Jean, we can find local products throughout the region. People take joy in buying fresh farm products at the Place du marché in downtown Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
In Sainte-Brigitte, Jardins d'Odina produces excellent ciders. In Saint-Grégoire, known for its orchards, Denis Charbonneau and Léo Boutin produce ice ciders. There are dairy producers in Saint-Alexandre and Saint-Paul-de-l'Île-aux-Noix. Au gré des champs cheese factory has won prizes several times. Au Saucisson vaudois in Sainte-Brigitte, Dalisa in Saint-Jean and Stefan Frick in Lacolle make deli meats that are sought after by consumers.
Les Vignobles des Pins in Sabrevois, Mas des Patriotes in L'Acadie and Vignoble 1292 in Saint-Blaise are the pride of the region for the quality of their wines. In Saint-Valentin, the town of love, Les Fraises Louis Hébert has a u-pick strawberry operation and sells many strawberry-based products.
The government’s approach to local food is focused on national efforts to increase consumer awareness and knowledge of the Canadian agricultural sector as well as the needs of farmers’ markets across the country. Provincial governments have a role to play in determining what local food means to them, and the Government of Canada continues to work with interested provinces on this issue.
Indeed, many provinces and territories are actively implementing local food strategies. To make them effective, provincial support is needed, combined with a bottom-up structure that understands the local food scene. For a number of years, provinces and territories have been working with the federal government to fund diverse local food programs. Under the previous framework for agriculture, provinces and territories had the flexibility to target investments to meet local needs. That way, they could provide tools to help farmers remain innovative and competitive, and capture new and existing markets, which include, of course, markets for local food.
For instance, in Quebec, $5 million was targeted to developing local markets. The Proximité program encouraged farmers to take advantage of the business opportunities that local markets provide. The Yukon used funding to get a wider variety of farm products into farmers’ markets and restaurants and onto store shelves. New Brunswick’s market development, product enhancement and diversification program supported farmers’ efforts to capture new markets, be they local, national or global.
We are focusing on a new five-year Canadian agricultural partnership. The partnership is a $3-billion federal-provincial-territorial investment, a bold new plan to help keep Canadian agriculture booming. It includes $1 billion in federal funding for six programs and activities that will build an even stronger, more innovative and more sustainable sector, and $2 billion in cost-shared funding between the provinces and territories and the federal government. These funds have built-in flexibility to allow the provinces and territories to target their own programs to local needs. Working in partnership can provide a boost to the local food movement.
Just as farmers have the full support of Canadians, they also have the full support of this government. We are there to encourage and help people from all walks of life to choose farming as their profession. We are there to support them with programs and services under the Canadian agricultural partnership to help them grow their businesses. The government is there to fight for them on the global stage as they help feed a growing world population.
The Government is happy to support Bill C-281 because, when Canadians shop locally, they are keeping dollars in the community, creating jobs and contributing to sustainable development.
When we transport these agricultural products over shorter distances, we reduce the environmental impact. That is the most pleasant way I can think of to boost the economy.