Wally Schumann: Implementation of the NWT Agriculture Strategy

Delivered on October 19, 2017

Mr. Speaker, our government believes we can foster a future in which agriculture entrepreneurs have the tools to succeed and each region can grow and harvest locally-produced food. 

The NWT Agriculture Strategy is the blueprint with which we intend to grow the economic viability of our agriculture sector. The revised mandate commits this government to expanding the agriculture sector by implementing this Strategy, improving access to agricultural lands, updating agricultural funding programs and support training for commercial farmers.  The Strategy outlines the actions we must take, the investments we must make and the legislative tools that need to be put in place in order to achieve this commitment.

Mr. Speaker, this is no small task but since tabling the Strategy this past spring, we have been working to advance the implementation of this Strategy in a number of areas. 

I am pleased today to announce a partnership with the NWT Association of Communities to complete bylaws surrounding backyard agriculture. This project will see the Association develop three Backyard Agriculture Smart Management Practices alongside associated by-laws for use across the NWT.

Specifically, these template by-laws will cover: backyard chickens; beekeeping; and backyard goats.  They will be made available to Northwest Territories municipalities to be tailored to reflect their specific community needs.   As the agriculture sector in our North grows, our communities are keen to advance local farming and food growing initiatives.   This policy development is a crucial step in guiding grassroots agriculture in our territory and supporting the transition to commercial enterprises while protecting public trust and public safety.

Our partnership with the NWTAC is just one of many in which we are working to advance the implementation of the NWT Agriculture Strategy.

We also worked this summer with the Inuvik Greenhouse Society to deliver “train-the-trainer” programs to community garden societies in each of the Beaufort Delta communities.  The pilot program included the creation of Community Greenhouse Coordinators.  These community members were instrumental in helping to build local food-growing capacity by providing training and support all season long.

We were pleased this summer to support Polar Eggs, our largest and most successful commercial agriculture venture, with a marketing initiative to launch their six-egg carton.  ITI is also supporting their work to gain a greater market share in the NWT, in particular by accessing our smaller remote communities.

Mr. Speaker, as we move forward from our mid-term review process, we do so with three priorities for the implementation of the NWT Agriculture Strategy: to improve access to agricultural land; to update agricultural funding programs; and to support training for commercial farmers.

Access to agricultural land is the biggest of these challenges. But, while we are the lead department, this is not something that we can do on our own.  We have formed a working group across GNWT departments to help us identify solutions.  In particular, we are working with the Department of Lands to complete policy work regarding the leasing of lands for agricultural purposes.   This work will continue throughout the winter.

In the meantime, Mr. Speaker, we are assessing our support for NWT growers and producers. 

Under the Growing Forward partnership with the federal government, we will once again invest $1.2 million in programs and initiatives to support and grow the NWT agriculture sector this year.  

This funding program, however, will soon transition to the upcoming Canadian Agricultural Partnership, and it is providing a timely opportunity to assess our agriculture programming.    We are doing just that.  We have sent surveys to stakeholders across the territory to help us determine how they utilize our agriculture programming, and what improvements or changes they would like to see.  Their response and input will inform the program guidelines that are put in place with the new agreement.

Finally Mr. Speaker, we will also be focusing on the resources that we must provide to support commercial agriculture specifically to grow and thrive.  The Agriculture Conference in Hay River this last weekend helped us to begin this important conversation.

We were pleased with the participation of growers and producers who took part in discussions aimed at helping them grow their food business.  It was an opportunity to talk about where our industry should go, and how we should work together to advance our collective goals.

Goals, Mr. Speaker that are reflected in the vision of the NWT Agriculture Strategy: to increase the diversity, amount and value of foods and goods produced in the NWT for the betterment of all communities and residents in the NWT. 

We know there is a lot of work left to do, and we’re committed to seeing it through.  I look forward to pushing the emergence of our agriculture sector; and growing the demand for safe, affordable, locally grown food choices which will create business and entrepreneurial opportunities to strengthen and diversify the NWT’s economy overall.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.