Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Looks Ahead to Challenges Facing Canada in 2014

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Looks Ahead to Challenges Facing Canada in 2014

Article excerpt

Agriculture minister looks ahead to 2014

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EDMONTON - If Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz could have one wish come true in 2014, it would probably be to somehow squeeze politics out of farming and trade.

In the coming months, Canada will be heading to the World Trade Organization to lay the groundwork for possible sanctions against the United States over country-of-origin meat-labelling rules (COOL) that are bleeding Canadian beef and hog producers.

Ritz said the looming trade war could be avoided if U.S. policy were based on fairness and science instead of to harvest votes.

Canada's pledge to retaliate against a wide range of U.S. products from orange juice to bread if COOL isn't scrapped or amended is no idle threat, he said in a telephone interview recently.

"This is not a game of chicken here. This is a game of reality," Ritz said. "They are hurting our industry to the tune of $1 billion per year."

The effect of the labelling policy, first implemented in 2008, has been to cut Canadian cattle and hog shipments to the U.S. in half.

The rules, which became even more onerous last month, require detailed labels about the origins of beef, pork and chicken sold in U.S. stores. That increases costs and makes it more difficult for U.S. companies to buy Canadian products.

The federal government will have other political issues to chew on in the new year besides COOL.

Prairie farm groups have been lobbying Ottawa to get tough with Canada's two major railways over delays in shipping bumper crops of grain this fall to ports for export.

There have been calls for the Conservative government to amend legislation enacted just last June called the Fair Rail Freight Service Act.

The groups want to make it easier to fine railways if they don't deliver grain in a more timely way.

Ritz said the transportation bottleneck is more complicated than the farm groups are suggesting. …

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