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FPT MINISTERS OF AGRICULTURE TAKE ACTION TO STRENGTHEN SECTOR
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, Ontario, July 10, 2009 - Canada's federal, provincial and territorial Ministers of Agriculture held their annual meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake this week to discuss issues affecting the sector and their ongoing support for farmers and the agricultural and agri-food sector across the country.
Ministers discussed developments in agricultural policy and global economic challenges, as well as domestic factors such as adverse climate conditions, and how these factors are affecting farmers' sustainability and profitability. They stressed the importance of ongoing collaboration to ensure that agriculture policies and programs continue to respond and support the sector in addressing challenges and seizing opportunities.
Ministers discussed the situation of the pork industry and how current programming is responding. Proposals put forward by the Canadian Pork Council were also reviewed. Ministers are working with the industry to address the current challenges and move towards a sustainable and profitable industry.
Growing Forward programs are up and running in all provinces and territories addressing local needs and regional realities while contributing to our national objectives. These initiatives will help the sector during these tough economic times and contribute to a profitable and innovative industry. The Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments are cost-sharing on a 60:40 basis, $1.3 billion in program funding to support farmers and the agricultural sector across the country. The federal government is also investing $1.05 billion in innovation, competitiveness, environment and food safety initiatives.
Ministers discussed the steps taken by governments to strengthen the Canadian food safety system to protect and enhance public health, maintain consumer confidence at home and ensure international competitiveness. Ministers agreed to take a national, science-based approach on food safety and directed officials to advance work in three key areas: enhanced surveillance, pathogen reduction in meat and poultry, and common meat hygiene standards. These actions will build on progress made by federal, provincial and territorial governments in upgrading and improving their systems. Ministers will take stock on progress at their next meeting.
*Ministers committed to move forward on a comprehensive national traceability system for livestock and poultry, which is critical for managing animal health and food safety issues, as well as expanding market access and driving efficiencies. They agreed that a mandatory comprehensive national system for livestock will be in place by 2011 and that implementation will be supported by national funding and regulatory framework. Ministers committed to engage key industry groups on the timing of implementation for each species. The Growing Forward policy framework and Agricultural Flexibility Fund will provide support for key elements of the national system. Ministers also discussed the need for traceability for all sectors.
Ministers acknowledged the positive steps taken to engage trading partners on key market access issues facing the livestock, beef, pork and other agricultural sectors.
Ministers expressed support for the Market Access Secretariat as a key initiative, including federal-provincial-territorial engagement and cooperation on market access priorities. Ministers committed to working together and with industry in identifying and taking full advantage of market access opportunities, and addressing bilateral and multilateral trade matters, including trade restrictions related to H1N1, U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) and South Korea's treatment of Canadian beef exports. Ministers also reiterated support for advancing Canada's trade interests at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and in bilateral Free Trade Agreement negotiations, notably with the European Union, to benefit Canada's entire agricultural sector, including export-oriented and supply-managed industries.
Ministers discussed the business risk management (BRM) strategic review, which is being undertaken to assess current objectives and programs. Ministers directed officials to identify: potential objectives and principles for future BRM programs; the roles and responsibilities of industry and governments in managing risk; and the range of possible program design options. Ministers expect to review and decide on these matters in early 2010. Ministers also directed that an industry engagement strategy be developed for their consideration as soon as possible.
Ministers also discussed the issue of livestock insurance and directed officials to bring forward possible approaches, within existing fiscal capacity, to move forward on this for discussion at their next meeting.
Ministers discussed the roll out of the $500 million Agricultural Flexibility Fund announced as part of the Government of Canada's 2009 Economic Action Plan to support partnering with the provinces, territories and industry on non-BRM measures that will reduce the cost of production, improve environmental sustainability, promote innovation and respond to market challenges. The federal Minister updated provincial and territorial colleagues and discussed potential programming. Provincial and territorial ministers welcomed the opportunity to work with the federal government on this initiative.
Ministers of Agriculture will hold their next annual meeting in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in July 2010.
* With the exception of Saskatchewan.
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