PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER ANNOUNCES MEASURES TO PROMOTE NORTHERN AGRICULTURE
“The initiatives announced today will help provide Northerners with the skills training, technology and capital they need to help take local food production to the next level. This will contribute to healthier, locally grown, and lower priced fresh food for northern families and less reliance on southern producers and distributors. It will help provide northern solutions for northern challenges.” – Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced measures to promote an economically viable, job-creating, commercial agricultural industry in Canada’s North. These include support to help establish a permanent campus for the Northern Farm Training Institute (NFTI) in the Northwest Territories, and the launch of the Northern Greenhouse Initiative, which is aimed at advancing the commercialization and enhancing the productivity of greenhouse projects across Canada’s North. The Prime Minister also profiled research into promising new modular farming technology, developed in conjunction with the Aurora Research Institute’s South Slave Research Centre in Fort Smith, that may extend the Northern growing season and substantially expand the Northern agriculture industry. The announcement was made during the Prime Minister’s ninth annual Northern Tour, taking place from August 21 to 26, 2014. He was joined by Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, and Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council.
These new measures are intended to boost the growing Northern agricultural sector, by addressing gaps in available skills, technology and capital. The resulting increase in the amount of food grown locally will help to provide Northerners with better access to healthy fresh local produce at lower costs, and result in communities being less reliant on far-away producers.
The support being announced today for the NFTI will allow it to offer its programs year-round from a new permanent campus in Hay River, targeted towards students from every community in the Northwest Territories. It will enable the Institute to better deliver agricultural training tailored to meet the needs of Aboriginal and northern communities in the Northwest Territories. The graduates from the Institute will be able to take the skills they learn – including training in greenhouse operations – back to their home communities, such as Fort Smith, promoting the sharing of their know-how across the territory.
The Northern Greenhouse Initiative will provide support to advance the commercialization and enhance the productivity of greenhouse projects across Canada’s North. The Government of Canada, through its Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, will, in the coming days, call for partnership proposals to advance this initiative. More viable commercial greenhouses will improve access to healthy food options in the North and increased jobs and economic opportunities in the three territories.
- The NFTI is an initiative of the Territorial Farmer’s Association (TFA) which has held workshops in Hay River and Fort Smith for the past two years. Students have come from communities throughout the Deh Cho and South Slave regions, including Nahanni Butte, Trout Lake, Wrigley, Jean Marie River, Fort Simpson, Fort Smith, Fort Resolution, Hay River and the Hay River Reserve. A number of former students have started Agricultural businesses in the Northwest Territories.
- The TFA and the Town of Hay River are establishing a permanent campus for the NFTI. In collaboration with Aurora College, they will offer training in farming, greenhouses, and livestock, as well as establishing agricultural employment in farming, silviculture, and compost.
- The NFTI’s permanent campus will be situated on a 300 acre parcel of arable land made available by the Town of Hay River. It will house several agricultural initiatives in the Northwest Territories, including the AgNorth pilot project – based on LED modular farm technology – and the Native Seed Commercialization Project, both coordinated by Aurora College and previously supported by the Government of Canada.
- Extensive consultations were conducted in 2013 during the development of the Hay River Agricultural Strategy, the NFTI business plan as well as on the AgNorth pilot project. Discussions were held with business people, communities, mine operators, and other stakeholders to determine interest, need, opportunities, concerns, and seek local knowledge.
- The Northwest Territories imports approximately $17 million of produce annually. The initial intent of the NFTI is to annually offset $5 to $6 million of imported food with locally grown produce.
- The Government of Canada’s support for these initiatives will help establish a more robust agricultural sector and diversify the economy of the Northwest Territories. By helping to grow produce locally, this initiative will decrease reliance on imported foods, reduce transportation costs, create jobs, and help to provide greater access to fresh food across the Northwest Territories.