by SUSAN MANN
For the first time ever, Ontario will host the annual meeting of agricultural officials from Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The meeting, called the Tri-National Agricultural Accord, will be held in Niagara Falls from Sept. 6 to 8, 2016. It has been held annually for 24 years. Agricultural officials from all three countries and their subnational legislatures attend the meeting to talk about agricultural trade and development matters.
The countries take turns hosting the meeting. The 2015 meeting wrapped up on Friday, Nov. 14 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Arthur Potts, parliamentary assistant to Ontario Agriculture Minster Jeff Leal, lead the Canadian delegation.
In a Nov. 14 joint communiqué, Canadian, American and Mexican officials prioritized emergency planning related to highly pathogenic avian influenza and other animal diseases. In addition, the Mexican/Canadian delegates in their working group meetings discussed market access for beef. They also approved a joint letter be sent to the United States Department of Agriculture’s animal and plant health inspection service requesting the restoration of full market access for sheep and goats.
Sheep and goat breeding stock access was never reinstated after the United States closed its border to live sheep, goat and cattle imports following the 2003 discovery of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) in Canadian cattle, explains Corlena Patterson, executive director of the Canadian Sheep Federation.
The problem, she says, is no longer BSE, which affects cattle, but rather its relative, scrapie, which affects goats and sheep. "They (the United States) are risk-adverse in terms of importing potentially scrapie-infected animals from Canada," she explains.
Scrapie isn't rampant in Canada "but you never know and there's a risk," and no live animal test exists to check for its presence so there's no way of telling with 100 per cent certainty which animals are infected, she says.
Delegates from Canada and Mexico also discussed the United States’ failure to rectify its Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) law. In a joint statement, Canada and Mexico urged the American government to swiftly pass “a legislative solution to COOL that will remove the discrimination and damages caused by the current legislation.”
Ontario agriculture ministry spokesman Andrew Donnachie says by email the specific matters participants will discuss next year “will be determined over the next year. Generally they will be related to agricultural trade, market development and collaboration between Canada, the United States and Mexico.”
He adds that by participating in the Accord meetings, Ontario has an opportunity to strengthen its business relationships, increase collaboration with key markets and “support jobs and growth in our agri-food sector.”
The Ontario agriculture ministry says in a Nov. 13 news release the United States is Ontario’s number one trading partner. In 2014, Ontario shipped 74 per cent of its agri-food exports, valued at $9.22 billion, to the United States. That same year Mexico was Ontario’s fifth largest source for agri-food exports; sales of agri-food products to that country were pegged at $156 million. BF