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Farm groups set objectives for fall session of Parliament

With the Canadian Wheat Board battle in the rear-view mirror, this fall’s parliamentary session won’t be as controversial.

But long-promised legislation to set standards for railway service levels, drought aid for Ontario and Quebec farmers, and the new Growing Forward deal — expected to make farmers more responsible for their financial well-being — should generate political debate.

Legislation to overhaul the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has, so far, been generally well received, but a devil-in-the-details debate may arise once MPs and senators take a closer look at it.

Trade talks — on Canada-Europe free trade, the Trans-Pacific Pact and bilateral deals — will also attract close attention.

“The government will continue to focus on negotiating bilateral deals,” said Ron Bonnett, president of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. “A Canada-Japan deal would be an important piece for the country’s trade expansion.”

Grain Growers of Canada will be watching the railway legislation and the future role of the Canadian Grain Commission, says president Stephen Vandervalk.

“Farmers will be responsible for most of the fees that will go to fund the operations of the commission, yet many of their services do not add value to our product,” he said.

“We are concerned that farmers will not have a significant say in the ongoing governance or direction.”

He also welcomed the continued emphasis on bilateral trade deals.

“Even a smaller trade deal with Morocco is important as they buy about one-third of all our durum wheat each year.”

Both farm leaders said they’re concerned about the lack of farmer input into the proposed changes to the AgriStability program.

“We are concerned that without sufficient producer input and direction, any downturn in prices or a widespread crop failure will take us back to the days of emergency farm aid,” said Vandervalk.

“We can say with confidence farmers do not want to return to aid programs. We want dependable and predictable programs to help us manage risks that are beyond our control.”

Another item on the to-do list of Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz is gaining international acceptance of a plan that would allow crop shipments to be considered GM free if they had no more than 0.1 per cent of approved genetically modified material. 

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