Horner encouraged by discussions at agriculture ministers' meeting

ALBERTA - Key agricultural issues such as the feasibility of the Canadian Agricultural Income Stabilization (CAIS) program, the development of a national livestock traceability system and the importance of upcoming World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations were at the forefront of discussions at the recently concluded federal/provincial/territorial agriculture ministers' meeting at Harrison Hot Springs, B.C.
calendar icon 22 March 2006
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Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development

Doug Horner, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, said the meeting provided an excellent opportunity to share information with the new federal agriculture minister, Chuck Strahl, and help build national consensus on addressing the immediate needs and long-term sustainability for the agriculture sector.

Horner said there is an urgency to reconfigure CAIS so that producers have a reliable risk management tool in place for current industry challenges.

"CAIS was originally designed as an income stabilization tool for farmers. Back-to-back agricultural disasters have proven CAIS isn't an adequate program. Whatever we agree on in terms of solutions, we need to ensure that this program is simple, predictable, bankable and responsive." he said.

The end of April deadline for agreement on rules in WTO negotiations represents a crucial point in determining the future growth and prosperity of the agri-food industry, Horner said.

"Our industry's sustainability is dependent on improved market access, the elimination of export subsidies and substantial reductions in production and trade distorting domestic subsidies of other countries," he said.

On the subject of traceability, the success of a national agriculture and food traceability system is dependent on a federal system that is a true partnership between governments and industry and must be implemented as soon as possible, Horner added.

"Consumer and international confidence in Canadian livestock is of paramount importance. Efforts must be made quickly by all stakeholders to ensure information is open and accessible," he said.

Horner also found agreement from provincial counterparts on the importance of building a viable, long-term strategy for the bioenergy sector. "Here in Alberta, bioenergy represents a significant opportunity that will create new value chains for producers meeting multiple objectives - promoting a healthy investment climate for developers and investors, a cleaner environment and rural development opportunities."

Open and transparent consultations initiated by the federal government will loom large in furthering progress towards a new Agricultural Policy Framework (APF), Horner added.

"I applaud the federal government's intention to be inclusive and transparent in these consultations and I look forward to the recommendations of the review panel on this subject," he said.

Source: Alberta Agriculture, Food and Rural Development - 20th March 2006

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