Ag ministers pledge support for supply management

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — Canada’s agriculture ministers say they support expanded trade opportunities but not at the expense of supply management.

After their annual meeting, which was held in Charlottetown this week, the ministers said new markets such as those through the Trans-Pacific Partnership are critical to an exporting country like Canada.

But they also said they would continue “to preserve the integrity of the supply management system.”

Host minister Alan McIsaac said as far as he is concerned that means no changes to the existing system in order to get a TPP deal.

“We need to open up barriers but not at the expense of supply management,” he told a news conference. “It’s a tricky discussion.”

Federal minister Gerry Ritz called the situation a balancing act. He said Canada’s position is clear and negotiations would not take place in public.

The federal government has consistently said supply management will be protected even as it works to sign trade deals with countries that don’t like the system.

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Some suggest the TPP could be signed by the end of this month. Stakeholders are off to Maui next week for discussions, and a ministerial meeting is scheduled for the week after that.

The ministers also discussed weather conditions affecting agricultural operations across the country.

Extremely dry conditions in parts of Alberta and Saskatchewan have led to concerns about feed availability for livestock producers. Alberta minister Oneil Carlier said crop insurance and other programs are in place as the first line of defence and said he is in constant communication with officials and industry leaders about the situation.

In P.E.I., potato tampering has become an issue of significant concern. Ritz called the acts “despicable” and “deplorable” and pledged to prosecute anyone caught tampering with food under the Safe Food for Canadians Act.

The law carries a fine of up to 18 months in prison and a maximum fine of $500,000 for a first offence.

“We look forward to them finding these scoundrels,” Ritz said.

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Meanwhile, the ministers also met with industry leaders at a roundtable hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, where they discussed social license and the need for the industry to rally together to counter activists and those who are working to break down public trust in the food system.

CFA president Ron Bonnett said the issue resulted in one of the best discussions ever with ministers.

“We’ve got to start fighting back,” he said in an interview.

Some consumer demands are unrealistic, Bonnett said, but there has to be a way to deal with the real concerns they have.

“There was definitely a commitment by ministers to have a more robust discussion amongst themselves,” he said.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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  • ed

    Not truthful is one way of describing this present Canadian Federal Ag. Minister Gerry Ritz. He said all these same types of things to Western Canadian Grain farmers in the spring election campaign of 2011. In Minnedosa Mb., April 2011, in front of a group of farmers he said, Gerry-“I am not prepared to work arbitrarily to change the CWB”, in reference to the 47.1 section of the CWB act that required a democratic vote to alter that act, and further to this comment he said, Gerry- “I believe in Democracy, I hope you do to.” Well words mean nothing. It is actions that count and we know clearly now the actions that this government took on that issue. They obviously are not to be trusted now and Mr. Bonnett knows this well, but is trying to hide it. That is a calculated strategy but probably not the best one given this governments lack of good will. For the people in Canada that actually believe in Democracy, there is a vote coming up in October. It will be interesting to see if people research and vote for a political party and leader that in acts core policies that they need and are similar to those that their forefathers believed in and voted for or just vote for the party and people that fly the same color banner and wear the same color of shirt as they did back then. These guys sheep costumes seem to be wearing quite thin and falling off a bit.

  • rservice

    The sooner supply management gets its head out of the sand and quits holding the grain beef and pork commodities hostage the better I’m sick of competing on a uneven playing field with x dairy farmers selling quota at 40000$ per cow and driving up land prices to the level of stupidity just to launder their money

    • ed

      With supply management the land required for the operations of these businesses is limited, just like their production. They will often buy hay and feed from local grain farmers who they can work with at less than they could produce it themselves for, or they truck it in from large distances where the land has a far lower price, away from the tight milk shed circle around a city and the large influence on real estate values around urban centers. Raising pork and beef in these settings and price restriction or growing the grain to feed them will not work unless you can get the price of those commodities way up and that is not possible. What you are suggesting will create a domino effect of winners and losers. The big winner being urban developers that get all that land from broke grain, pork and beef farmers far sooner than would occur eventually and the biggest losers will be people who would like some fresh milk, eggs, or chicken rather than having it reformulated from a dehydrated powder or frozen, and people like you who thought it would work.