Jan. 26, 2009
CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. (CNB) - Agriculture ministers from the Atlantic provinces agreed here today to co-operate in the development of the agriculture and agri-food sector in this region.
Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU), the ministers agreed to increase areas of co-operation; share information and expertise; and collaborate on mutually beneficial initiatives. They also agreed to work together to address the affects of federal policies and programs on this region.
Under the MOU, the ministers also agreed to work toward harmonized regulatory and policy initiatives in areas such as food safety and quality, traceability, environmental stewardship, research and statistics, extension services, animal health and beneficial management practices.
The MOU formalizes co-operation among the provinces that is already underway. It does not prevent any individual province from dealing with issues unique to its circumstances.
"If our agriculture sector is going to be competitive, it is imperative that the agriculture departments as well as industry stakeholders find additional ways to work together as a region," said Agriculture and Aquaculture Minister Ronald Ouellette. "The MOU provides the framework for us to do that."
The agriculture and agri-food industry provides a significant opportunity to increase its contribution to the economy of the Atlantic region," said George Webster, P.E.I. agriculture minister. "Increased co-operation will enable governments and industry in the region to build on their strengths and opportunities."
The ministers noted that the agriculture and agri-food industry is a significant part of the economy of the Atlantic region. There are about 8,800 farms, which employ more than 15,000. "Total annual farm cash receipts are about $1.4 billion, and the total value of farm capital is more than $5.6 billion. Exports of agri-food products from the region to international markets exceed $912 million.
They also noted that with a regional population of 2.2 million people and with 100 million consumers in central Canada and the northeast United States, there are major market opportunities for agriculture and food products produced in Atlantic Canada.
"Regional co-operation among the Atlantic provinces is necessary so we can further develop and build our agriculture and agri-food sector," said Nova Scotia Agriculture Minister Mark Parent. "This agreement provides the foundation for collaborating on mutual initiatives that will ensure a sustainable agriculture industry. We will work together on issues affecting the industry, share and develop infrastructure opportunities and pursue regional marketing and promotional initiatives."
Kathy Dunderdale, minister of natural resources and minister responsible for the Agrifoods Agency in Newfoundland and Labrador, looked forward to increased co-operation on issues of regional concern.
"We 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.
MEDIA CONTACTS: Paul Harpelle, communications, Department of Agriculture and Aquaculture, 506-444-4218; Wayne MacKinnon, communications, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture, Prince Edward Island, 902-368-4888.