WEB ONLY: Agriculture ministers focus on economy, profitability of sector

Federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture met in Ottawa on Feb. 9 to discuss issues critical to a competitive, innovative and profitable agricultural sector.

Ministers discussed the current economic situation within Canada and globally, and underscored the need to continue to work with the industry in these difficult times. They also talked in particular about the ongoing economic difficulties facing the livestock sector in­cluding the responsiveness of existing and future programs. Governments will continue to collaborate to ensure programming is responsive to the needs of Canadian agriculture.

The ministers noted Canada has one of the safest food systems in the world. Govern­ments committed to ongoing collaboration to strengthen food safety, so consumers and trading partners continue to have confidence in Canadian products.

Ministers concurred Can­ada’s food safety and traceability systems are linked and are a key part of improving the competitiveness and profitability for the sector.

Concerted government ef­fort will continue on implementing a national agriculture and food traceability system for emergency management and market access purposes, building on existing initiatives, and with priority on livestock and poultry. Ministers directed their officials to return in July with a plan on food safety and a progress report on traceability.

Ministers discussed recent advances on market access is­sues, including establishment of the Market Access Secre­tariat. They recognized the need to focus on new opportunities in pursuit of commercially-significant market access.

Ministers are determined in their focus to increase Cana­dian agricultural and agri-food exports and to level the international playing field for Cana­dian producers. Ministers agreed to work with industry to assess and address the impacts of U.S. country-of-origin labeling requirements.

Ministers stressed the im­portance of a successful conclusion to the Doha Round of trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization which benefits Canada’s entire agricultural sector, including supply-managed and export-oriented industries.

Ministers noted the progress made in the development of Growing Forward programs. They reiterated their commitment to complete bilateral agreements and get new programs up and running in all provinces and territories by April 1.

New Growing Forward programs will be more flexible and responsive to local needs and support a strong, competitive and innovative sector that contributes to society’s priorities and proactively manages risk.

Ministers noted the importance of making progress on the review of the existing demand-driven suite of business risk management (BRM) programs. The review is important to ensure that BRM programming is responsive to Canadian farmers in helping them to manage risks.

Ministers of Agriculture will meet next at their annual conference to be held July 9-10 in Niagara-on-the-Lake.