Bibeau listens as ag decisions loom

Canada’s federal agriculture minister is getting ready to deal with two thorny issues that show no signs of being easily resolved.

Right now, Marie-Claude Bibeau is leaving it to farmers and the agriculture industry to lay out their hopes, needs and concerns to her about reforming the Canadian Grain Commission and finding a way to pay cereal grain seed developers for their work.

“I don’t have any strong views on the direction it should take,” Bibeau said about reforming the grain commission and the superstructure of regulations it oversees.

She is being similarly open about where the seed royalties issue should go, now that farmers have made their opposition to both main proposals loud and clear.

“I understand there’s no consensus on the direction it should take,” Bibeau said.

While non-committal on the specifics of how to resolve the perennial problems around the Canada Grain Act and seed development funding, she did not seem to be avoiding the issues. She has a reputation of being a serious policy person who likes to wade into details after examining issues closely.

“I’m really in a listening mode right now,” she said of the Canada Grain Act situation.

“We are having more and more conversations about the subject. I think it’s definitely time to modernize the organization and the act … but I want to make sure that it’s meeting once again the expectations and the reality of our time, that it works well for the farmers and meets the needs of our trading environment as well.”

She said she plans to keep speaking with farmers as her department sorts out just what reforms are needed.

Finding a way for cereal grain seed variety developers to be compensated for their research and development might be a less complex matter than reforming the Canada Grains Act, but its contentiousness has Bibeau moving gingerly.

“We are proceeding with a cost-benefit analysis,” she said.

“I would need more time on this one, too, before we move forward.”

However, she said she appreciates why it is an issue that keeps coming up within the agriculture industry.

“We want to be competitive, we want the sector to be competitive and to have the tools to develop in the right direction,” said Bibeau.

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