About the Committee
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 department and agencies that are under the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture.
While most of the forest on Crown land is managed by the provinces, the federal government is responsible for many forest-related matters. These includes a fiduciary responsibility to aboriginal peoples, responsibility for the protection of endangered species, migratory birds, navigable waters, fisheries, environmental assessment, forest research and 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 April 2004, through a report entitled The BSE Crisis – Lessons for the Future, the committee addressed the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) crisis which had recently struck the agriculture sector. The report gave an overview of the situation and problems related to the crisis and proposed a long-term approach to ensuring greater security and stability for the Canadian beef industry.
On November 20, 2007, the committee was given a renewed mandate to examine and report on rural poverty and rural decline in Canada. Pursuant to this order of reference, the committee tabled its final report in June 2008 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. Those factors include high energy prices, weather-related events in some parts of the world that reduced crop yields, increasing demand from Asian countries and the growth of ethanol production. Domestic institutional factors, such as regulations, also have a role in explaining high input prices. The seven recommendations addressed ways to help farmers cope with global factors through farm programs, while also asking the federal government to review domestic regulatory issues that potentially further exacerbate the effect of the global factors.
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, including structural (e.g. drop in demand for newsprint due to the growth of electronic publications) and cyclical causes (e.g. the decline in the US Market). The role and responsibilities of the federal government with respect to research, market and trade development in the forestry sector, amongst others, are also assessed.
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 http://senate-senat.ca/agfo.asp .