“The Conservative Government’s Aggressive Agriculture Agenda”
It has become increasingly obvious to me after decades as a farmer and a politician that “Agriculture” does not capture headlines unless it involves drought, disease or some other type of disaster. In fact, it’s very likely that I lost a good number of readers with my opening line already.
Yet, there are fewer issues more fundamental than agriculture and our food supply to Canadians’ every day lives…literally. Plus, Canada is the world’s fourth largest exporter of agriculture and food products with 2009 trade figures at just over $35-billion.
In recent months my Cabinet colleague, Minister of Agriculture Gerry Ritz, has been very busy working to enhance the competitiveness, productivity and reputation of Canada’s agriculture sector.
He announced this Spring that our Government is investing more than $6-million in research and innovation to help beef producers remain on the cutting edge (no pun intended).
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association will receive these federal funds to lead a “Beef Cluster” which will pull together scientific expertise to assist Canada’s beef and cattle industry address challenges the sector has faced in recent years.
The research will focus on priorities farmers themselves have identified: reducing production costs, increasing feed efficiency and decreasing the impact of animal health issues. The cluster will also work to increase demand for Canadian beef.
Also this Spring Minister Ritz successfully negotiated an historic agriculture partnership between Canada and China that will increase the value of Canadian pulse exports to China to an estimated total of $500-million from the current $100-million.
The agreement was announced during a trade mission to Beijing where the Minister and Canadian farm leaders worked together to strengthen export opportunities for Canadian pulses, canola, beef, grain and hogs. Minister Ritz also continued to work with Chinese officials to resolve restrictions on Canadian canola exports to China.
And in yet another move to showcase to the world what Canadian farmers have to offer, Minister Ritz announced that Canada will host the Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting in 2011. The Cairns Group is a coalition of 19 agricultural exporting countries with a commitment to strengthening agricultural trade.
This event is an opportunity for Canada to drive a strong agenda to strengthen international agriculture trade, ultimately expanding existing markets and creating new markets for Canadian farmers.
Finally, last week Minister Ritz introduced legislation in the House of Commons that will strengthen farmers’ voice within the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) and streamline the process required to deliver payments to producers.
Bill C-27 will cut red-tape and reduce the number of steps required for the Wheat Board to pay farmers for grain and to get their pay cheques to their mailboxes as quickly as possible. It will also make sure board members are elected by farmers who are actually involved in producing grain.
This is yet another step in our Government’s efforts to make the CWB accountable to farmers. Earlier this year the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the legitimacy of our directive to the CWB to NOT spend farmers’ hard-earned money on pro-Wheat Board propaganda.
For more information on these and other agriculture initiatives undertaken by our Conservative Government, go to www.agr.gc.ca.