Last week the new Progressive Conservative government in Manitoba changed the name of its agriculture ministry back to the Department of Agriculture. Previously it was the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, or MAFRD. Many people on twitter were cheerleading the decision as if this was agriculture finding its roots with the name change. Some said they found it hard to say the former acronym.
My very first reaction to the name change by the Manitoba government was disappointment. Dropping the word “food” from the name of the department is a mistake. Although it caters to traditionalists, it breaks the connection our industry so needs with consumers. Food is our main connection to the outside world. People are celebrating better verbal flowing acronyms instead of marketing agriculture as being responsible for food production.
Agriculture already lacks cabinet profile and influence in many provinces. Losing the word association of food and agriculture doesn’t help. Agriculture is about producing food, not just something that keeps rural people entertained on sunny days.
We have become so insecure within our own agricultural thin skin that we celebrate the oddest things. The world has changed — resorting to traditional names is not making agriculture more relevant to anyone.
I think the federal government has the perfect name: Agriculture and Agri-food. The name includes agriculture and the connection to food. Yes, food…food is our connection to the consumer. Agriculture and Agri-food is a simple name, still effective and from my research it does not change with every breeze of political change.
You can go to any industry meeting in 2016 and there will be a speaker talking about the “consumer,” yet we are seem eager to drop our connection to them in an attempt to hold onto our heritage.
Manitoba is not the only province to drop “food” from the agriculture portfolio name. Alberta previously included food as well, but it was dropped around 2008 while George Groeneveld was the Minister.
Here is how all of the provinces and the federal government describe each agriculture department.
British Columbia – Agriculture
Alberta – Agriculture and Forestry
Saskatchewan – Agriculture
Manitoba – Agriculture
Ontario – Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs
Quebec – Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
New Brunswick – Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries
Prince Edward Island – Agriculture and Fisheries
Nova Scotia – Agriculture (Dual role, also fills Aquaculture and Fisheries)
Newfoundland – Business, Tourism, Culture and Rural Development / Fisheries and Aquaculture
Yukon – No ministry but there is a government service for agriculture
North West Territory – No reference to agriculture
It is interesting that most of the western provinces (with the exception of Manitoba) still use the traditional “Ministry of Agriculture,” while Ontario and Quebec include “food”. Do Ontario and Quebec have it right? I think so.
It’s time to evolve and intentionally show people the connection between agriculture and food. As farmers and ranchers we live the agriculture/food connection everyday. Our customers don’t.
Words matter, whether we like it or not.