Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit - San Diego, California, USA - January 21-25, 2009

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 Purpose of travel:

To attend and participate in the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit (LACS).


The LACS brings together senior United States (US) state agriculture legislators, Canadian provincial Ministers, and elected officials to discuss agriculture policy challenges and to exchange best practices. This year, 275 legislators, industry sponsors representing 50 states, and representatives from five provinces attended. Canadian attendance included Ministers, elected officials, and rural leaders from Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Representatives from the Alberta Beef Producers, Canadian Pork Council, and Olds College attended as Summit sponsors. Federal Canadian representation included the Canadian Consulate Los Angeles and San Diego, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

The Honourable George Groeneveld attended the Summit in his role as Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD). The Honourable Lloyd Snelgrove, Minister of Treasury Board, attended in his role as a member of the State Agriculture Rural Leaders (SARL) Board, the Summit’s organizing body. Minister Snelgrove was re-elected to the SARL Board in 2008 for a final two-year term.

The objectives of the Summit were to:

  • provide and promote educational opportunities that advance the interests of agriculture and rural communities;
  • educate its members on technology, policy, processes, and issues that are of concern to agriculture and rural communities;
  • serve as a liaison between members interested in the viability of rural communities and the profitability of agriculture;
  • strengthen leadership qualities at the state, provincial, and national level; and,
  • foster an exchange of ideas, cooperation, and coordination in agriculture and rural issues.

Pre-Summit, the Canadian delegation participated in a meeting hosted by Carl Hartill, Consul for Political, Economic and Public Affairs, Canadian Consulate General, Los Angeles. Consulate staff provided an overview of Canada – US relations and regional specifics on the agriculture and agri-food industries. Provincial participants provided an update on key priorities and issues.

The Summit program began with presentations and tours led by the San Diego County Farm Bureau. The tours showcased the avocado and nursery industries. California’s agriculture industry continues to try to address the state’s water deficit issues.

Los Angeles Canadian Consul General, David Fransen, in partnership with ARD, hosted the opening reception for over 200 attendees. The reception provided Canada unprecedented visibility, and a valuable opportunity to discuss Canada – US priorities with attending legislators and significant US industry representatives.

The LACS format is a series of panels that allow for open discussion on key agriculture issues. The 2009 panel topics included: Educating Consumers; Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food; Water, the Next Oil; Family Farm Viability; Agriculture Competitiveness; Innovative Rural Health Care Options; Sustainable Biofuels, Immigration and Agriculture Labor; Animal Rights/Welfare; Water Quality and Nutrient Management; Marketing Agriculture Products; and Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) and Food Safety.

The Summit began with a panel on Educating the Consumer that included Tom Thompson, President of Olds College, as a panel member. The main theme of the panel’s discussion was that priority must be placed on enhancing consumers’ perception of agriculture, to ensure agriculture sustainability. Panel members presented initiatives that have served to advance understanding, appreciation, and confidence in the agriculture sector.

The Truth in Labelling panel focused on consumers’ desire to know that their food supply is safe and traceable. Consumers are concerned about food imports from countries like China and there are sentiments that the US is losing its leadership in food safety to Europe.

The panel on Agriculture Competitiveness covered some of the major issues facing agriculture. New California state policies that address environmental issues will greatly impact the agriculture sector. For example, costs to reconfigure and replace trucks, including farm equipment, to be in compliance with the non-pollution regulations, will carry a price tag of $12 billion US. Congress is considering funding to help address adherence to this regulation.

Dr. Lowell Catlett, an Ag Futurist and professor at New Mexico State University, was a lunch keynote speaker. Dr. Catlett focused on changing consumer desires. His message was that today’s consumer has moved beyond the basics to more value-added needs. The future of agriculture could see prescription food customized to an individual’s DNA.

Water, the Next Oil panel focused on water scarcity and the misconception that agriculture is the main instigator. The US is concerned that water supply issues will make the US a net importer of food, which will result in food security concerns.

A session on Rural Health Care highlighted the severe doctor and nurse shortage in the US and detailed initiatives currently underway to address this issue. Rural communities need to inspire students to undertake medical careers and return to their communities. Legislation to make it easier for foreign doctors to be licensed in the US could help alleviate the shortage. Consideration is also being given for tax breaks for rural doctors.

The Marketing Agriculture Products: Country of Origin Labelling (COOL), Food Safety and More panel focused on the impact of COOL to the agriculture industry. Mark Harmon, Joplin Stockyards, Brian Nilsson, Co-Chief, Executive Officer, XL Foods, and Kelly Johnson, VP Campbells Soup, provided their perspectives on COOL. The main message of the panel was that COOL will increase costs due to tracking requirements and decreased plant efficiency. Positive comments were made with regards to Canada’s traceability system and our approach to COOL. All members of the panel expressed concerns that increasing environmental, animal welfare, and food safety regulations will increase the cost of doing business and result in plant closures.

The Summit concluded Sunday, January 25, 2009 with an overview of US federal issues and the implementation of the 2008 US Farm Bill. Discussion centered around US farm policy under the Obama administration. Mary Kay Thatcher, American Farm Bureau lobbyist speculated that given the economy, 67 percent of the Farm Bill allocated to nutrition programs and food stamps would not be clawed back. Rather, she inferred that the 21 percent producer component of the Farm Bill could face decreased funding.

The Summit affords Canadian provinces and the federal government an excellent opportunity to network and advance key Canadian interests in agriculture, but also in other areas such as border issues, trade, and energy. While the program is structured around panel presentations, it is intentionally designed to allow legislators the ability to meet and discuss issues in a personal, informal manner. The strengthening of provincial-state relationships provides the federal and provincial governments the ability to intersect with key US state influencers and policy makers.

Mission Objectives:
  • broaden understanding between the US and Canada;
  • enhance Alberta’s profile and relationships with key US state decision makers;
  • advance and advocate our agriculture and agri-food interests;
  • advocate for COOL implementation that does not impede two way trade; and,
  • advocate for a World Trade Organization (WTO) outcome that significantly reduces trade-distorting domestic support, makes deep cuts to all tariffs, and eliminates all forms of export subsidies.

  • collaborated with Canadian elected officials and industry to advocate and advance Alberta’s agriculture interests on priority issues – COOL and WTO;
  • expanded Alberta’s contact network of key US influencers at the US state legislative level; and,
  • exchanged information on priority agriculture issues.


George Groeneveld, Minister of ARD
Michael Norris, Executive Assistant to the Minister, ARD
Lloyd Snelgrove, Minister and President of Treasury Board
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This information published to the web on February 27, 2009.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 23, 2017.