Bob McLeod: Development of the NWT Agriculture Strategy and Food Production Plan

Mr. Speaker, the Government of the Northwest Territories has made a commitment in its Mandate to develop and implement an Agriculture Strategy to increase domestic food production, improve distribution networks for NWT-produced foods and to increase producer and supplier opportunities.

The price of food is a significant driver of the Northwest Territories’ high cost of living in all of our communities, Mr. Speaker.  Equally important in supporting and growing our vibrant communities, is diversity in localized economies.

The need for an Agriculture Strategy to advance economic opportunities in the agriculture sector was first identified in the NWT Economic Opportunities Strategy.  An Agriculture Strategy will also assist in lowering the cost of living by improving food security by encouraging local food production.

Thanks to the investments and hard work of dedicated producers in all communities, with the support of the federal government’s Growing Forward 2 Agreement and departments across the GNWT, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment is now in a position to formalize an Agriculture and Food Production Strategy to address our commitments in these areas.

This Strategy is built upon input received through community engagement events hosted during the summer of 2015.   The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, worked in partnership with the Territorial Farmers Association, Northern Farm Training Institute, and the NWT Association of Communities. These findings were collected and released in a “What We Learned” Report.

The Report identified five pillars that the Strategy will be based on.  

The first pillar is planning, which will encourage the proactive development of community-specific approaches to food production and governments both territorial and local doing their part to ensure legislative and regulatory regimes are in place to support safe community food development.

Knowledge, the second pillar focuses on training in food production, developing an online public agriculture info-base, supporting mentorship, and getting youth involved through experiential learning.

Leadership will include localized community committees to identify and support individuals with a strong interest in, and commitment to, food growing and gathering across the Territory.

The marketing pillar will see the review and revision of policies surrounding food production in the NWT, investigating opportunities to create incentives for local food production and consumption, developing marketing channels, and exploring opportunities to encourage greater value-added opportunities for food production in the NWT.

Our strategy’s final pillar, enhancing access to resources, will include increasing the availability of soil, land, energy, heat and financial, and food production infrastructure through strategic investments and incentives.

We are preparing to share the draft Strategy with Standing Committee, Mr. Speaker. With the recent groundswell of support for agriculture in the NWT, I look forward to discussing this plan with Members and to moving it forward so that we can begin delivering on these pillars for our citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss if I were not to recognize the organizations who have worked tirelessly building our agriculture capacity to where it is today.

The Northern Farm Training Institute has provided opportunities for mentorship and education in farming and agriculture to NWT residents for two successful years.  We are confident their dedicated staff will continue to play an active role in the sector’s future.

Our NWT Territorial Farmers Association has also worked in tandem with various organizations to deliver innovative programming to NWT communities over the years. We thank them for their efforts and look forward to working with them in the future.

We are pleased to have partnered with CanNor to provide further funding for feasibility studies and for greenhouses in our communities. With the installation of greenhouses in communities on the Beaufort Sea, we now have a food production sector stretching the length and breadth of our Territory.   To that end, the Inuvik Community Greenhouse also deserves recognition for supporting investments and initiatives to bring growing capacity to communities in the Beaufort Delta where there once was none.

Finally, we must recognize the great work done by our largest commercial success story, in Polar Egg. The company has been providing fresh, high-quality eggs to our Northern jurisdictions for many years. We salute these entrepreneurs who brought life to the NWT’s first commercial agriculture venture.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.