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Tories pledge fast-tracked ag input approvals

The farming planks in the federal Conservatives’ election platform include a plan to rework the approval processes for pesticides, veterinary drugs and other ag inputs to allow for “international equivalencies.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched the party’s full platform Friday in Mississauga, including a pledge to develop a “national farm and food strategy to guide federal policy through the coming years.”

Such a strategy, the party said, “will build on our efforts to sustain the Canadian family farm, to strengthen food safety, and to open new markets for the world-class products of Canadian farmers.”

Canadian farmers, meanwhile, want access to the “latest innovations, to succeed in the global economy,” the Tories’ platform document states.

“Unfortunately, long and burdensome approval processes imposed by the federal government are preventing Canadian farmers from obtaining the best fertilizers, pesticides, and veterinary drugs available on the market.”

Allowing for international equivalencies would help “eliminate needless duplication” in the approval process, “while protecting our national sovereignty and maintaining the highest safety standards,” the party said.

The party’s platform also commits a Conservative government to review the federal Species at Risk Act. The current Act “provides for compensation for land-use restrictions intended to protect the habitats of endangered species,” but “in practice compensation is virtually never granted,” the party said.

The party expects to “strengthen the rights of landowners” by reviewing the Act “with a view to ensuring that when compensation is owed, compensation will be paid.”

Exports

The party also pledged increased support for the Agriculture and Food Trade Commissioner Service, which is meant to advance Canadian farmers’ position in trade negotiations and disputes, and for the Market Access Secretariat, which Harper’s government set up in 2009 to better co-ordinate the expansion of Canadian ag exports.

The platform document also calls for a Conservative government to “aim to complete negotiations” on a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union by 2012, and on a free trade agreement with India by 2013.

The platform document didn’t mention any progress on free trade talks with Korea, which the Canadian Pork Council in January described as “the most crucial potential free trade agreement that can be completed for the Canadian pork sector,” although it said at the time that talks with the EU could yield “long-term potential.”

Also on the trade front, Friday’s Tory platform reiterated the party’s commitment to “defending supply management in all international forums and bilateral negotiations,” referring to Canada’s supply-managed dairy, egg and poultry sectors.

The Tories earlier this week ripped the Liberals’ platform document for making no mention of supply management.

The Tories’ platform also vows a Conservative government will “continue to work with western Canadian grain farmers to ensure that the results of the barley plebiscite are respected and that they are given the freedom to choose whether to sell grain on the open market or through the Canadian Wheat Board.”

R+D

The platform document also refers to a pledge from Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s defeated March budget, in promising a new Agriculture Innovation Initiative to support “local farm-based research and development projects.”

Flaherty’s budget had promised $25 million in additional spending in each of the next two fiscal years for that initiative, “to support knowledge creation and transfer and increased commercialization of agricultural innovations.”

Ag groups had generally hailed the budget’s move to back research and innovation, although the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), for one, said at the time that the additional money “does not compensate for the neglect agricultural research has received over the past several years.”

Liberal agriculture critic Wayne Easter said in a separate release Friday that the Conservative government had previously announced $418 million in cuts to agriculture spending in the recently-released main estimates in programming for 2011.

Those cuts, Easter said, had included a reduction of $152 million in science and innovation programming.

Easter’s release also announced his participation Monday (April 11) in a national pre-election agriculture debate at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa.

Also scheduled to take part in the debate are the Conservatives’ ag minister, western Saskatchewan MP Gerry Ritz; Bloc Quebecois agriculture critic and Centre-du-Quebec area MP Andre Bellavance; the NDP’s assistant Canadian Wheat Board critic, Winnipeg MP Pat Martin; and Kate Storey, a farmer from Grandview, Man. and Green Party candidate for Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette.

The CFA plans to webcast the debate live on its website. CPAC plans to rebroadcast the debate at a date and time not yet announced.

COPA Medallion COPA finalist in 2012, 2014 and 2015.
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