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Mission to the Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture meetings - July 27 to 29, 2009

 
 
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 Purpose of travel:
To attend the annual Western Association of State Departments of Agriculture (WASDA) meeting.

Overview:
WASDA is a multi-state organization under the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA). The WASDA meetings bring together the western United States (US) state departments of agriculture secretaries, commissioners, and directors to discuss areas of mutual interest and concern. Membership includes: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. Alberta and British Columbia are affiliate members and are invited to participate in the regional discussions.

Alberta’s attendance provides Alberta with the opportunity to meet with key agriculture decision makers from the western US. The meeting provides a forum to advance Alberta’s agriculture and agri-food interests, find areas of collaboration, exchange information on key agriculture policy areas, and address any priority issues. This year’s WASDA meeting was hosted by Katy Coba, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA).

Honourable George Groeneveld, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD), represented Alberta at WASDA. Current budget constraints restricted the participation of British Columbia at this year’s meeting.

Mission Objectives:
  • Exchange information with counterparts on key agriculture issues;
  • Enhance Alberta’s profile and relationships with key US state decision makers;
  • Promote collaborative approaches to common problems and issues;
  • Seek areas of cooperation with priority states; and,
  • Encourage implementation of Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations that do not impede trade.
This year’s WASDA agenda included agriculture site visits and a roundtable meeting. Key topics of discussion included: federal cap and trade legislation, land use systems and farmland protection, water conservation, marketing initiatives, and state of the agriculture industry in the new economic environment.

Representatives from Syngenta and Crop Life America provided an overview of the challenges of policy legislation as it relates to pesticide application. Potential new policies intersecting with other Acts could negatively impact many areas of responsibility beyond agriculture.

Representatives from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the 25 x 25 Alliance participated in a panel discussion on the federal cap and trade legislation in carbon credits. The USDA suggested there is a significant opportunity for land owners in the carbon credit market. As the agriculture sector is energy intensive, it is expected that fuel prices will raise farm expenses by as much as 23 percent over the next 10 years. The 2008 Farm Bill has provided opportunities for expanding US biofuel production and research capacity to address alternate energy sources. The speaker shared the intention of the Waxman and Markey Bill as it relates to agriculture and forestry.

The Waxman and Markey Bill, also known as the Clean Energy and Security Act (HR2454), was passed in the US House of Representatives on June 26, 2009. The bill has five aspects: clean energy, energy efficiency, reducing global warming pollution, transitioning to a clean energy economy, and offsets from domestic forestry and agriculture. The Bill has set caps in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that include a 17 percent reduction of GHG by 2020 and 25 percent by 2030. It was stated that the agriculture and forestry sector will need to be well positioned to address and capitalize on this legislation.

The panel also provided a report on the 25 x 25 Alliance, a national renewal energy initiative addressing the role of agriculture and forestry in a reduced carbon economy. The Alliance’s vision is that farms, ranches, and forests will provide 25 percent of the energy produced in the US while maintaining the production of affordable food and fibre by 2025. The 25 x 25 Alliance envisions reaching this goal by producing transportation fuels, harnessing wind energy, converting biogas emissions, capturing hydro, solar and thermal energy, and providing biomass for generating heat and power.

Dick Brenner, Senior Attorney, METRO, provided a snapshot of Oregon’s Land Use System and Farmland Protection. The overarching state policy strives to achieve the highest liveability amongst the population, enhance coordination among levels of government, ensure preservation of farm and forest land, and contain urban development. The institutional structure includes the Land Conservation and Development Commission and the Department of Land Conservation and Development. A periodic review of the land use conservation plan is required by all cities and counties. Enforcement is undertaken by the Land Conservation and Development Commission. State grants and assistance to cities and counties is provided annually to help implement the land use and farmland protection plan.

Ray Jaindl, ODA, provided a summary of agriculture’s response to Total Minimum Daily Limits (TMDL) (water pollution). The ODA has a number of programs that promote and encourage conservation activities that address water quality, and specific state legal authorities to address water pollution associated with agricultural lands and activities. Agency programs that contribute to achieving TMDL goals include Agricultural Water Quality Management, Confined Animal Feeding Operations, Pesticides, Weed Control and Invasive species, and Soil and Water Conservation Districts. These programs work collectively with the agriculture community and general public to develop and implement economically viable, basin-specific strategies that protect the waters of Oregon from agricultural impacts while allowing for a viable agriculture industry.

On marketing initiatives, Dalton Hobbs, ODA and Deborah Kane, EcoTrust, provided an overview of a new matchmaking website tool developed by the ODA for producers, processors, and buyers. Producers, buyers, and processors populate profiles for the website. The tool is comprehensive and includes a shopping cart feature to facilitate immediate sales. The uniqueness of the search engine is that it can be searched by type of product, as well as distance to buyer/processor via a geo-coded map.

States provided a status of their agriculture industry: overall budget cuts will impact some states more than others (California/Oregon); crops have been affected by drought; commodity prices continue to be a concern; the US pork industry has been affected by the H1N1 issue; bio-security remains a US priority; innovative inputs for renewable energy are being developed (walnut shells, onion skins); although the local food movement is gaining momentum in individual states, states reiterated the need for export markets; invasive species legislation in some states is addressing invasive species issues; and Oregon showcased their nursery and malt industry and the Nike Research park.

I provided an overview of the state of Alberta’s agriculture industry. I also shared Canada’s concerns with implementing COOL. I stressed the need to work together to ensure COOL is implemented in a way which does not impede our robust two-way trade. An update on our livestock traceability systems was also shared. I acknowledged participation at the very successful Alberta-Idaho led Pacific North West Cross-Border Livestock Conference. The Conference brought together provincial and state veterinarians from the Pacific Northwest Economic Region to discuss animal health protocols, issues, best practises, and collaborative opportunities.

Results:
  • Provided an overview of the state of Alberta’s agriculture industry;
  • Shared results of the very successful Alberta/Idaho-led Cross-Border Livestock Health Conference. Extended the invitation to US states to attend the 2010 Cross-Border Livestock Health Conference being held within the Pacific Northwest Economic Region meeting in Calgary next summer;
  • Met with newly appointed state secretaries of agriculture to explore areas of collaboration and cooperation;
  • Met with US state secretaries to discuss the approach for the Canada-Mexico-US Tri-National Agricultural Accord held in Gimli, Manitoba, August 11-14, 009;
  • Exchanged information on Alberta’s Livestock and Meat Strategy and our enhanced traceability efforts; and,
  • Advocated for COOL implementation that does not hinder robust two-way trade.
Delegation:
Honourable George Groeneveld, Minister of ARD
Ms. Annalisa Baer, Senior Manager, ARD
 
 
 
 
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Mike Long.
This document is maintained by Kelly Bernard.
This information published to the web on August 26, 2009.
Last Reviewed/Revised on September 12, 2016.