Job creation, international trade, and water and soil conservation are priorities for the federal Agriculture department, says Minister Lawrence MacAulay.

"The Prime Minister has asked me to focus on a number of priorities to make sure the sector creates jobs and is a leader in innovation," MacAulay said Friday. Addressing the PEI Federation of Agriculture's 75th annual general meeting in Charlottetown, his speech emphasized the positive, as he asserted the future "looks bright."  

'We can continue to improve our relationship with the Americans. At the same time, we will continue to advance Canadian interests.' — Lawrence MacAualy, Federal Agriculture Minister

Agriculture is P.E.I.'s largest industry, generating more than half a billion dollars annually in farm cash receipts, more than $300 million in exports and 12,000 jobs. 

"I've been in your shoes, and I know that sometimes it's not that easy to get things to happen. But if we work together, we can make things happen," the former dairy and potato farmer told the audience. 

"There's no doubt that trade and innovation are high on my priority list," MacAulay said, noting about half of all Canadian agriculture products are exported.

He says working on trade agreements is key to increasing those exports while attempting to make sure farmers face a level playing field when it comes to subsidies and tariffs. He reiterated his support for supply management.

Talking to Americans

MacAulay was in Washington recently to meet with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and other government and industry leaders, taking the temperature of U.S.-Canada agriculture relations. 

"We can continue to improve our relationship with the Americans. At the same time, we will continue to advance Canadian interests during trade negotiations," he said. Safety net programs will be reviewed too, with input from farmers and provincial governments. 

MacAulay promised Canada's reputation as a good steward of the environment will be strengthened, as government invests in innovation technology that promotes sustainable agriculture and safeguards natural resources.

"The expanse of the middle class in China is amazing," he added. He says it's important Canada continue to produce high-quality products to satisfy the demand. 

A new multi-year policy framework for agriculture will be needed when Growing Forward 2 runs out in 2018, and MacAulay said he's looking forward to stakeholder consultation.