Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

March 20, 2006 19:33 ET

Agriculture Ministers Discuss Path Forward for Agriculture in Canada

HARRISON HOT SPRINGS, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - March 20, 2006) - Federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture met today in British Columbia. They discussed key issues facing the sector as well as the development of the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy. They are committed to working together, making a concerted effort to address immediate needs and to establish a strong policy foundation that will ensure a competitive and profitable agriculture sector for years to come.

Ministers addressed the need to develop the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy, to provide an enduring foundation for profitability throughout the value chain. To achieve this, Ministers recognize that a dedicated partnership between governments and industry is required and are committed to consulting with a broad range of stakeholders to this end.

Ministers are also determined to move forward on transforming the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program to ensure programming is simpler and more responsive to the needs of Canada's producers. They tasked officials to review options, to carry out consultations, including on the possibility of replacing the current integrated CAIS program with one that separates disaster relief from income stabilization, and to bring recommendations back to them at their next meeting in June. They asked that these changes be affordable to taxpayers.

Ministers have pressed forward in eliminating the deposit and replacing it with a fee. The details on the fee will be announced by March 31, 2006. Ministers also agreed to further consider expanding the coverage for producers with negative margins, and to consider a targeted advance to proactively aim assistance at commodities or regions where it is especially needed.

Ministers recognize that it is a priority to ensure Canada is well prepared to address an outbreak of avian influenza, should one occur. Recognizing the good work already done, they directed officials to continue to work with all relevant authorities, with special emphasis in a number of areas, namely biosecurity related to commercial operations and backyard flocks, including segregation from wild birds, Foreign Animal Disease Emergency Support agreements, communications with stakeholders and the public, and the availability of the human and technical resource capacity to respond to a prolonged or wide spread outbreak. Ministers asked officials to bring forward their work at their upcoming conference in June.

Ministers also continued their discussions related to bovine spongiform encephalopathy. They discussed the importance of moving forward to enhance Canada's feed ban and to work collaboratively to address the challenges related to the disposal of specified risk materials.

Ministers unanimously supported moving quickly on a National Agriculture and Agri-Food Traceability System beginning with livestock. It should be built on a partnership of governments and industry. Ministers directed that further consultations with industry take place with a view to bringing forward concrete recommendations on a national system at their next meeting.

Ministers also discussed Canada's participation in the World Trade Organization (WTO) agriculture negotiations, and their importance to the prosperity and growth of the entire sector. Ministers affirmed the importance of Canada's efforts to achieve a more level international playing field for producers and processors across the country. They expressed their particular support for improving Canadian exporters' access to international markets, and strongly reaffirmed their support for the right of producers to choose to use orderly marketing systems. Ministers further agreed on the key role to be played by the provinces and the agri-food industry in helping Canada to develop and advance positions at the WTO which serve Canada's national interests.

The next meeting of federal, provincial, and territorial Ministers of Agriculture will be their annual conference in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, June 26-29, 2006.

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