Working for agriculture

“Farmers First” has been the catch-phrase of the Canadian Wheat Board for many years. In the political sphere, it has now come into use to emphasize the importance of our farming communities.
Certainly the growth of such initiatives as local farmers’ markets has given more people access to quality locally-grown foods.
As they enhance their own “buy local” efforts, city and town folk alike are gaining a new appreciation of the good families who produce these vital commodities for us.
This past week, the agricultural research stations in our region held tours and visitors stopped by individual farms to see the latest techniques in the industry.
As we learn from our farming neighbours, even in Parliament, the subject of “truth in labelling” was a large part of the agriculture committee’s work this spring.
The committee made recommendations on the best approach to inform Canadians about which products helped them support local farmers.
The agriculture sector certainly is facing a number of localized and larger challenges, but I also am excited by opportunities the community is pursuing.
Issues of local impact continue at the international level. In a place called Doha, the World Trade Organization is conducting talks and Canada needs to take a strong position to resist pressure from world competitors.
Dairy products and poultry all could be affected as our national supply management system is being challenged by countries that choose to provide huge subsidies to their agricultural industries.
From an environmental standpoint, as climate change discussions take the forefront this summer, we can take some relief in the fact that although agriculture produces about 10 percent of the greenhouse gas going into the atmosphere, farmers can provide about 20 percent of the solutions in a variety of ways.
Of my immediate concern is the Harper government’s plan to cut food safety inspections.
Let’s not forget the lessons of Walkerton. I will continue to work with agricultural groups to explain to the government how dangerous that decision would be.
Another urgent concern is the crisis facing the Canadian beef industry. There are a number of reasons behind this, but our farmers are telling us the crisis has been harder-hitting than the BSE situation.
The federal government has to act, and I have been working with producers to obtain a positive response from the minister on these issues. Canada’s reputation for safe, reliable, and nutritious food products is something in which we should all continue to take pride in.
The Liberal plan for a fairer, richer, greener Canada includes support for our farmers.

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