Getting Agriculture Some Recognition In The Federal Election

Grain Growers of Canada was the first farm group to pitch farm policies to the parties competing in the May 2 election.

President Stephen Vandervalk asked the party leaders “to make agriculture a key part of your election platform. Recent issues like food prices, food safety, biofuels and sustainability have created public interest in agriculture.”

Among the issues highlighted by Grain Growers was making Growing Forward more predictable, effective and bankable, moving ahead on rail service reforms, an injection of $26 million a year for 10 years to restore public agriculture research to 1994 levels, completing free trade and WTO negotiations, removing barley from the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly, encouraging sustainable farm practices and supporting genetically engineered crops.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has been carefully cultivating the political landscape to conserve the Conservative’s strong grip on rural Canada.

At an Ottawa reception March 23 sponsored by the poultry-marketing boards, he announced an increase in the compensation rate for birds ordered destroyed by government inspectors. His announcement was greeted with loud applause from the attendees.

The boards had sought higher compensation for years for flocks ordered destroyed to prevent the spread of disease. Farmers face a hefty cost to thoroughly disinfect their barns, wait for the go-ahead from the Canadian Food

Inspection Agency before they purchase replacement birds and then wait some more until the poultry start laying or are ready for market.

Many argue the available compensation doesn’t cover the full cost a producer faces in getting back into operation. Because of the potential financial loss from low compensation, farmers might be tempted to try to nurse their birds back to health rather than report the problem to their veterinarian.

Chicken Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada and the Canadian Hatching Egg Producers issued a joint release applauding the higher payouts.

“The newly enhanced compensation program will help lessen the economic and social impact on poultry farmers in the event their flocks must be destroyed and represents the culmination of extensive consultation between industry stakeholders and government,” the statement said.

Beef farmers aren’t going unnoticed either. Ritz says an agreement that would allow Canadian beef back into Korea is almost concluded. It could even be announced during the election campaign.

Canada has been shut out of the Asian market since 2003 when BSE was found in a cow in Alberta. He noted that Korea wants to settle the dispute before the World Trade Organization issues a final ruling on a Canadian complaint that there’s no scientific basis for the Asian country’s ongoing ban on Canadian beef.

The government has failed to satisfy complaints from pork producers and meat processors about stalled free trade talks with South Korea that could see pork from other countries supplant Canadian pig meat in the Asian country.

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Manyarguetheavailable compensationdoesn’t coverthefullcosta producerfacesingetting backintooperation.

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