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Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry
The Senate of Canada
Canada, K1A 0A4
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INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE
ON AGRICULTURE AND FORESTRY
The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry has the mandate to examine legislation and to study, on order of the Senate, issues related to agriculture and forestry. The agriculture and agri-food portfolio covers all departments and agencies that are under the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.
While most of the forest on Crown land is managed by the provinces, the federal government is responsible for many forest-related matters. These include a fiduciary responsibility to aboriginal peoples, responsibility for the protection of endangered species, migratory birds, navigable waters, fisheries, environmental assessment, forest research, technology development, and the regulation of trade and commerce, including the export of forest products.
On May 16, 1986, the Standing Committee on Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry was divided into two separate committees: the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, and the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries. The Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, hereafter referred to as the committee, convened on March 11, 1987.
Over the years, the committee’s studies have covered a wide range of topical subjects and various crises while longer term issues have provided a forum for in-depth analyses of changes that shaped, and are still influencing, the future of agriculture. For instance, in 1986, the committee tabled what was to become one of the most widely distributed and read reports in the history of the Senate. Entitled Soil at Risk: Canada’s Eroding Future, the report helped to raise awareness of soil degradation and its potential impact on the environment, on consumers and on the Canadian economy.
In June 2008, the committee tabled a report entitled Beyond Freefall: Halting Rural Poverty. The report reflected the views of expert witnesses and rural Canadians in every province and territory. The report made 68 recommendations aimed at reducing rural poverty and rural decline in Canada and increasing the federal government policy commitment to rural issues. In the same year, the committee produced a report entitled “Growing” Costs for Canadian Farmers. The study looked at the factors behind the large increase in farm input prices that occur periodically.
The committee has tabled two reports relating to innovation in the forestry and agricultural sectors. In July 2011, the committee tabled a report entitled The Canadian Forest Sector: A Future Based on Innovation which makes a diagnosis of problems in the forest industry. Specifically, it describes the causes and origins of the crisis that the industry is going through. In June 2014, the committee tabled a report entitled Innovation in Agriculture: The Key to Feeding a Growing Population. The first part describes the factors shaping the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector. The interest in innovation is explored in the second part of the report. The final part of the report examines how the adoption of new methods or technologies on the market requires professional development for producers in terms of business management and risk management.
In May 2015, the committee tabled a report pertaining to bee health entitled The Importance of Bee Health to Sustainable Food Production in Canada. The first part of the report provides information on the structure of the Canadian beekeeping sector, current state of honey bees, the importance of pollinators, and consequences of bee mortality. The second part of the report addresses strategies to ensure pollinator health.
More recently the committee focussed on studies relating to trade and growing Canada's value-added food sector. In May 2017, the committee tabled a report entitled Market Access: Giving Canadian Farmers and Processors the world and in July 2019, the report entitled Made in Canada: Growing Canada’s Value-Added Food Sector was tabled.
Between these two reports, the committee tabled a report, in December 2018, entitled Feast or Famine: Impacts of Climate Change and Carbon Pricing on Agriculture, Agri-food and Forestry. Given the rapidly changing reality for Canada’s agriculture, agri-food and forestry sectors, and the impending carbon pricing regime, the committee undertook this study to provide evidence-based recommendations that will support workers in these sectors and Canadian consumers.
SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK
Since the committee took on its current form in 1987, it has had numerous bills referred to it that focussed on agricultural issues. These bills dealt primarily with amendments to already existing acts such as the Agricultural Marketing Programs Act and the Canadian Wheat Board Act.
For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at https://sencanada.ca/en/committees/agfo/.