Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

April 12, 2007 17:53 ET

Ministers of Agriculture Make Important Progress for the Sector at Meeting in Winnipeg

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA--(CCNMatthews - April 12, 2007) - Federal and provincial Ministers of Agriculture met today to discuss how to ensure the agriculture and agri-food sector remains a strong and prosperous part of Canada's economy. Ministers committed to ongoing collaboration among governments and industry on new business risk management programming, the development of the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy, World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations, and enhanced feed ban regulations.

Suite of Business Risk Management Programs

Ministers discussed the continued evolution of the new suite of business risk management programs, including the margin-based element, the disaster framework, production insurance and the recently proposed savings account program arising from consultations with the sector. Ministers recognized that significant progress has been made and have tasked officials to come back with details to enable agreement on the business risk management suite at their annual conference in June. In support of this, a task team has been formed to develop proposals on funding approaches for the disaster framework for Ministerial discussion at the conference.

In addition, at their November meeting, Ministers directed officials to consult with farmers to identify and address gaps and make improvements in the business risk management suite. Consultations were carried out across the country, and a number of ideas were put forward, including proposals for contributory-style savings accounts.

To provide for more predictable and bankable programming for farmers, Ministers tasked officials to pursue work on the savings account program in consultation with industry and to bring forward details for Ministers to review at their annual conference in June. Ministers established the following program principles: it will be cost-shared; cost-neutral for each government; and, will replace the top tier of the income stabilization element of the business risk management suite. Provincial ministers expressed appreciation for the recently announced federal $600 million kickstart to the accounts, an important step forward in replacing the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization program with a suite of programs that together better respond to the needs of farmers.

Next Generation

In November 2006 federal, provincial and territorial ministers formally launched consultations on the next generation of agriculture and agri-food policy. Ministers noted that the consultations have been highly successful, and thanked the over 3000 participants who contributed in person or online from across the country, across the agriculture and agri-food sector, and from the general public.

These consultations yielded many suggestions on how to move forward with the next policy framework, which will enable the industry to remain prosperous in the years ahead. In addition to improvements in the business risk management suite, participants stressed the need to position the agriculture and agri-food sector for greater profitability and sustainability through an increased focus on innovation, competitiveness, a more proactive approach to addressing risks, and more flexibility in government programming. Ministers tasked officials to develop the framework based on what was heard in the consultations, and to continue working with industry as they move forward. Ministers agreed to a more integrated approach to the new framework, with policy outcomes of a competitive and innovative sector that responds to society's objectives and is proactive in managing risks.

Responding to a common theme in the consultations, Ministers had a fulsome discussion of regional flexibility in programming - a priority in all jurisdictions. They tasked officials to bring forward proposals for a clearer definition of regional flexibility within national objectives.

Improving the regulatory environment, and particularly the timeliness of the regulation-making process, was a consistent message heard at consultations across the country. Ministers discussed how a responsive regulatory system could enhance the competitiveness of the agriculture and agri-products sector and help industry adapt and innovate. There will be a report back on this in June.

World Trade Organization

Ministers assessed the current status of negotiations and affirmed Canada's continued efforts to press for an ambitious outcome from the Doha Round, for the benefit of Canada's entire agriculture sector, including both supply-managed and export-oriented industries. Federal, provincial and territorial governments will continue to work closely with industry leaders as Canada advances its objectives at the WTO, as well as through regional and bilateral trade negotiations. In the development of the next generation of policy, they will also collaborate to ensure support for the industry is in compliance with trade obligations.

Enhanced Feed Ban

Ministers reviewed the steps taken to meet the July 12, 2007, introduction of Canada's enhanced feed ban. Recognizing the ban's significant benefit to the Canadian cattle industry, ministers expressed a unified resolve to work toward an effective implementation. To this end, Ministers requested that officials continue working with all relevant sectors to facilitate their transition to the new requirements.

The Annual Conference of Agriculture Ministers will take place in Whistler, British Columbia on June 28-29, 2007.

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