Ritz defends Canada’s biofuel programs

(Resource News International) — Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz defended the use and production of biofuels in Canada at a May 30 meeting between federal, provincial, and territorial ministers of agriculture, saying Canada’s biofuel initiative strikes a good balance between food and fuel.

Following the meeting, Ritz was asked to comment on the recent release of a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) in which biofuels were said to be a contributing factor to rising global food costs.

“I’ve seen a myriad of these reports and it’s great that everybody can have their opinion but the reality is that the biofuel industry in Canada, at the rates that we’ve set, will take less than five per cent of Canadian production capability due to the industriousness of the agriculture sector and the innovation that is out there on alternatives,” he said.

Ritz went on to voice his frustrations at Canada being unfairly “lumped in” with other countries when it comes to biofuel subsidies.

“I think the program developed by the government sets the proper stage for a balance between food and fuel,” he said. “I see no problem at all with Canada continuing to support the world with good quality Canadian foodstuff.”

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the multilateral agreement on Growing Forward, Canada’s new policy framework for the agriculture, agri-food and agri-based products industry, according to the official news release.

Growing Forward builds on the business risk management (BRM) suite implemented in April.

The meeting also provided an opportunity for the ministers to discuss and be updated on a number of important issues currently facing the Canadian agriculture. Other topics discussed included the ongoing crisis in the livestock industry and efforts being made to help producers and increase profitability in that sector. Closely related to that discussion was an agreement among the ministers to continue advocating Canada’s opposition to country-of-origin-labelling (COOL), set to be implemented on October 1 in the U.S.

Officials also discussed measures designed to liberalize trade within Canada. Ministers were asked to report to the Council of Federation in July on a revised scope and coverage of the Agriculture and Food Goods, Chapter Nine, of the Agreement on Internal Trade, the release said.

Also, ministers had the opportunity to welcome and voice their support for new federal guidelines for “Product of Canada” and “Made in Canada” labelling.

Finally, the ministers also reviewed the current status of the agricultural negotiations of the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Doha round.

“Ministers re-affirmed their strong support for Canada’s
efforts to seek an ambitious result at the Doha round for the benefit of Canada’s entire agriculture sector, including both export-oriented and supply-managed industries,” the press release said.

The latest WTO agriculture draft modalities text released May 19 by Ambassador Crawford Falconer has come under fire from a number of provinces in Canada recently. The agriculture ministers of both Quebec and Ontario voiced their opposition to the text, saying it does not ensure adequate protection for Canada’s supply-managed industries, including dairy, poultry and eggs. Their counterparts in Alberta and Saskatchewan quickly responded, however, by encouraging the federal government to support an export-oriented global trade agreement. They pointed out that the vast majority of Canadian producers are export-dependent.

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