Canadian farmers, ranchers and processors across the country work hard every day to ensure that Canadians and consumers around the world have access to high-quality and healthy food. Canada's agriculture and agri-food system contribute over $110 billion of our gross domestic product, and last year our agriculture, food and seafood exports hit an all-time record of $64.6 billion.
Topics critical to the growth and continued prosperity of the sector were the focus of discussion at the annual meeting of federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) ministers of agriculture, co-chaired by Lawrence MacAulay, federal Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, and Lana Popham, Minister of Agriculture for British Columbia.
Ministers discussed how they can collaborate to create more jobs and support economic growth in the agriculture and agri-food sector. Canada's agriculture and agri-food sector was recently identified in the Barton Report as one of six sectors with high potential for economic growth. An Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table was created as part of the federal Innovation Skills Plan and serves as a forum for industry leaders to explore opportunities and challenges facing the sector. The Table engaged FPT ministers on their views to drive growth in the sector. Ministers noted the significant work that the Table has undertaken and committed to work collaboratively with industry.
Ministers acknowledged the importance of trade. They discussed on-going trade negotiations to maintain and grow market access for Canada, and the importance of working together to help the agricultural sector expand their businesses in key global markets. Ministers also reiterated their strong support for supply management. Ministers agreed that an appropriately skilled and increased labour supply in the short and long term is critical to future growth, and also agreed on the importance of ensuring the effectiveness of temporary foreign workers programs.
FPT Ministers noted the successful launch in April 2018 of the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a five-year, $3-billion investment to help the sector grow, innovate and prosper. The Partnership provides ongoing investments to support leading edge discovery and applied science, spur innovation, and promote international trade, while ensuring that producers continue to have access to business risk management (BRM) programs.
The Government of Canada provided an update on progress toward legalization of cannabis. The cannabis industry is eligible to apply for federal programs under the Partnership. Provinces and territories have the discretion to determine eligibility for cannabis production for cost-shared programs.
For BRM programs, income from cannabis (including both medicinal and recreational) are not eligible for support under AgriStability and AgriInvest. Governments agree to monitor this over the coming years as the cannabis industry matures and stabilizes.
After significant effort over the past year, the external panel of experts presented its recommendations on BRM programming. Ministers thanked the panel on concluding their work and directed officials to move forward with additional work required on the recommendations and to report back on progress to Ministers in 2019. Ministers remain committed to continued engagement with industry, external experts and other stakeholders.
Topics at the meeting also included identifying areas for increased collaboration to streamline regulations, reduce regulatory burden and continue to uphold the safety and high quality of agricultural products. In addition, Ministers had the opportunity to hear about Indigenous agriculture activities currently underway in British Columbia and received an update from the federal government on the continued development of A Food Policy for Canada.