Domestic trade review requested

VANCOUVER — Canadian farmers would welcome streamlined regulations that allow easier interprovincial trade and keep them competitive in global markets.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture and other industry leaders told the country’s agriculture ministers during a recent roundtable that cumbersome regulations on trade within the country can cause bottlenecks.

President Ron Bonnett said in some cases farmers still have to file paper applications or reports and can’t file electronically.

“Some places won’t accept emails but will accept faxes,” he said.

Other problems occur because different provinces have different standards, such as truck weights.

Second vice-president Marcel Groleau said in Quebec, environmental regulations that are 15 to 20 years old haven’t been replaced.

“They add new regulations but don’t eliminate the old ones,” he said.

Bonnett said the issue goes beyond primary agriculture. Processors find regulations sometimes are so prescriptive that modernizing operations and safety protocols become burdensome.

“How do you implement new technologies that don’t even fit within the framework of the regulations that are there but the outcomes for food safety might be better?” he said.

Agriculture ministers acknowledged the need to address these challenges while still ensuring food safety.

Saskatchewan deputy agriculture minister Rick Burton told reporters that the provinces and federal government agreed they need to do more in this area.

“If we don’t improve our regulatory efficiency we’re going to lose competitiveness and so we need to really focus on making sure that our pathways to approval of products is as competitive as can be, and not shorting or taking shortcuts on environment or food safety but we have to make sure that producers have access to products and the review system is effective and efficient to get those approved,” he said.

Ministers got a similar message from chief agricultural negotiator Frederic Seppey when he updated them on trade issues.

“The whole theme of the conference was very much on competitiveness,” he said. “They heard an update on regulatory approaches, how we can better align. We know that aligning good regulations with policy is very important.”

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