The Two Faces of Canadian Agriculture in a Post-Staples Economy

Grace Skogstad


This article traces the evolution of agriculture from a staples to a mature staples sector in the post-staples Canadian economy. It examines the situation of agricultural producers in the domestic and international political economy and traces the factors which have led to its structural transformation. Public policies are deeply implicated in this transformation, and accordingly, the changing patterns of relations between state actors and the agri-food sector are given attention. Four periods of structural transition and patterns of state-sector relationships are identified. The first, expansionist phase, extended from the late nineteenth to the 1930s when agricultural commodities were integral to the development of the Canadian economy and political community. The second period, from the 1930s to the end of the Second World War, marked an interregnum when agriculture merited attention not simply because of its service to broader national goals, but also because of recognition of structural disadvantages faced by thousands of individual commodity producers in a market economy. The third period, from the end of the Second World War through to the early 1980s, witnessed significant structural and policy changes in the sector in quest of rendering the sector more productive and profitable. The transition to a mature staples sector was supported by state intervention in agricultural markets and a financial safety net for producers. In the current fourth phase, since the early 1980s, changes in the international political economy, domestic fiscal deficits, and ideological shifts have precipitated a new competitiveness model. Strategies that are market-oriented and give incentives to adding value to raw commodities are in vogue.


Agriculture, Canada

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125