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Atlantic ag ministers ink regional pact

Agriculture ministers from Canada’s four Atlantic provinces have signed a memo of understanding for joint development of the region’s ag sector.

Meeting Monday in Charlottetown, the ministers said in a release that their agreement calls for them to “increase areas of co-operation, share information and expertise and partner on mutually beneficial initiatives.”

The ministers — Mark Parent of Nova Scotia, George Webster of Prince Edward Island, Ron Ouellette of New Brunswick and Kathy Dunderdale of Newfoundland and Labrador — also agreed to collaborate to “address the regional impacts” of federal policies and programs.

“We really need to pool our resources and work together as a region to advance the industry in Atlantic Canada and present a united front to the federal government on programs and policies that will benefit or impact on this region,” said Dunderdale, who was unable to attend the meeting, in a joint release.

As well, Parent said in the same release, “we will work together on issues affecting the industry, share and develop infrastructure opportunities and pursue regional marketing and promotional initiatives.”

In all, Atlantic Canada includes about 8,800 farms, employing over 15,000 people. Its annual farm cash receipts are about $1.4 billion and overall value of farm capital is over $5.6 billion. Exports of agri-food products from the region to international markets are over $912 million, the four ministers said.

As well, they said, with a regional population of 2.2 million people and with 100 million consumers in central Canada and the northeastern U.S., there are “major market opportunities” for Atlantic agriculture and food products.

“If our agriculture sector is going to be competitive, it is imperative that both the agriculture departments as well as industry stakeholders find additional ways to work together as a region,” Ouellette said in Monday’s release. “The memorandum of understanding (MOU) we signed today provides the framework for us to do that.”

At the same time, Dunderdale added, “while agreeing to work together on areas of mutual interest and concern, the MOU in no way precludes individual provinces from dealing with issues unique to their particular circumstances.”

The ministers said they have instructed their provincial ag department officials to develop a work plan that would allow for ongoing assessment of progress and seek to “identify new opportunities for collaboration.”

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