Soy Canada Talks National Food Policy with Agriculture Committee

Posted on: September 20, 2017

Soy Canada recently spoke to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food about the development of a National Food Policy for Canada. 

Below is the statement delivered by Interim Executive Director Dale Adolphe and Director of Corporate Affairs Chris Masciotra on September 19, 2017.

Good afternoon committee members.  Thank you for the invitation to share our perspective on the development of a Food Policy for Canada.  We always welcome the opportunity to comment on these important studies.  My name is Dale Adolphe and I am the interim Executive Director of Soy Canada.  With me is Chris Masciotra, Soy Canada’s Director of Corporate Affairs.

We’ll start by providing an update on the growth of the Canadian soybean sector before discussing our recommendations related to a national Food Policy.

Soy Canada is the national association representing the full soybean value chain.

Our members include producer associations representing soybean farmers across Canada, seed development companies, soybean exporters and processors. Our goal is to unite the soybean sector, facilitate cooperation and represent the industry on domestic and international issues surrounding market access, trade, market development and research.

The Canadian soybean sector is experiencing explosive growth.  This year our industry has reached new heights with all segments of the industry seeing strong growth and development.  In 2017:

  • Seeded acreage increased by 33 percent over the last year to 7.3 million acres;
  • Production is set to climb by 20 percent over the same period to 7.7 million tonnes
    • Much of this growth is taking place in western Canada where production has more than doubled over the last 12 months;
  • 2016 farm cash receipts from soybean production have risen to $2.88 billion – an increase of 20 percent from the year before; and
  • Exports of soybeans and soy products continue to trend upward. In 2016, exports reached 4.84 million tonnes at a value of $2.8 billion.

We are now in our 10th consecutive year of growth, and more and more producers are turning to soybeans as a reliable and profitable commodity to include in their crop rotations.  Today, over 31,000 farmers are growing soybeans – up 16 percent over the last five years.

Soy Canada welcomes the Government of Canada’s work toward the development of a Food Policy designed to provide consumer guidance and address issues related to the production, processing, distribution and consumption of food.

From our perspective, a national food policy must include a strong agriculture presence.  An effective policy will outline the conditions that allow the Canadian agriculture sector to thrive and build on the expansive growth forecasted by the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council on Economic Growth.  This should include a focus on overcoming market access and regulatory hurdles to enable more production and exports; calling for increased processing capabilities for high-growth commodities like soybeans; and increasing marketing support for shippers.  A national policy must promote science-based decision making, the harmonization of international standards, and the liberalization of trade through tariff reduction and other non-tariff barriers obstacles.  These are some of the key ingredients to developing a meaningful policy that meet the needs of consumers and industry stakeholders.

We’ve seen these priorities built into the national food policies of other like-minded countries.  Australia’s National Food Plan contains chapters dedicated to capitalizing on opportunities, addressing business and regulatory challenges, growing agriculture exports, promoting healthy food consumption and food sustainability.  Similarly, the United Kingdom’s strategy rallies support behind enhancing competitiveness, promoting free trade, and improving transportation infrastructure benefiting all members of the supply chain.  These strategies are good models for the Government of Canada to draw from as it develops a domestic policy.  They focus on issues beyond identifying nutritional value of foods and delve into the complex policies that impact all members of the agriculture value chain.

 Just to underscore the importance of trade-friendly food policies, international food trade now accounts for 23 percent of global food production.

A national food policy should also underscore industry and government efforts towards food safety in Canada.

Quality assurance standards put in place by our industry are world-class and recognized internationally as the gold standard in food quality and safety.  For example, soybeans produced for food consumption in Canada undergo robust private and government certification systems that trace the production and supply of identity preserved soybeans.  The Canadian Identity Preserved Recognition System, or CIPRS, is a grain traceability standard, administered by the Canadian Grain Commission and audited by third parties, to ensure CIPRS-certified grain shipments are pure and adhere to the highest food quality and safety standards.

Similarly, seed developers work with Canadian regulators such as the Pest Management Regulatory Agency when establishing residue limits on crop protection products.  The processes for establishing these limits are extremely robust.  They are science-based and have multiple built-in safety factors that enhance food safety when products are brought to market.  Consumers need to be made aware of these practices through a national food policy that educates Canadians of the high level of safety and care that goes into food production and handling.

It is about excellence, transparency, speed, continuous improvement and least cost.  It’s about providing Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency with a world-class foundation to continuously improve their performance and process standards, policies and resource allocations for the benefit of consumers, business and taxpayers.

Finally, a Canadian Food Policy should feature a healthy foods section that focuses on the nutritional value of agri-food products.

It is extremely important for a food policy to highlight the health benefits of agri-food products grown right here at home.  Canadian soybeans and processed soy oils are well positioned to serve as strong examples of locally-grown grains with tremendous health advantages.  Consider that in 2015, Health Canada approved a health claim linking the consumption of protein-rich soy food to lowering cholesterol levels.  Scientific studies behind the claim show that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day helps reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.  We are seeing other countries come to the same conclusions; linking soybean consumption to a reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease.  Just last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a similar health claim on soy oil food labels in the U.S.  In Canada, the health benefits of consuming soy oil in a country where soybeans are the fastest expanding crop is a net positive story for Canadians and one that could be featured as a success story in the forthcoming food policy.

I’ll wrap up by summarizing that an effective National Food Policy in Canada will emphasize the high quality of our agriculture goods and showcase our ability to meet demand at home and abroad.

The policy cannot remain silent on important agriculture issues such as market development and market access.  It must also take care to demonstrate the agriculture industry’s commitment to food safety and quality assurance.  Food safety is not just about consumer protection, it’s about enhancing the competitiveness of the Canadian food supply chain around the world.  A well-functioning science-based food safety regime helps to increase global demand for safe and wholesome Canadian agri-food products.

Soy Canada is proactively developing a framework to guide our industry on these issues.  Our strategic plan includes goals and targets for doubling the size of the Canadian soybean sector over the next 10 years.  Key targets in our plan include doubling overall production to 13 million tonnes, including the production of food-grade soybeans to 1.8 million tonnes; enhancing our industry’s contribution to natural capital; increasing protein levels; and expanding exports.  It is also our goal to heighten domestic processing capacity to 2.5 million tonnes by 2027.

The health, safety and economic wellbeing of Canadians is greatly determined by the integrity of the ecosystem, the natural resources and the infrastructure that we share: climate, air sheds, fresh water, natural landscapes, fisheries, agri-food systems, and transportation, telecommunications and energy networks.

We strongly believe a national food policy must facilitate the growth of the soybean sector and crop sectors in the grain and oilseed industry.  We look forward to working with the Government of Canada as it develops this strategy.

Thank you and we are happy to take your questions.