Legislative Agricultural Chairs Summit in Fort McDowell, Arizona January 13-16, 2011

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Final Trip Report
Minister Lloyd Snelgrove
Mission to Fort McDowell, Arizona

Dates: January 13-16, 2011


Purpose of travel:
To attend and participate in the Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit (LACS) and the State Agriculture Rural Leaders (SARL) Board meetings.

The LACS brings together senior United States (US) state agriculture legislators and Canadian provincial Ministers and elected officials to discuss agriculture policy challenges and to exchange best practices. This year 250 legislators and industry sponsors representing 46 states, and seven provinces attended. Canadian attendance included Ministers, elected officials and rural leaders from the provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Nova Scotia. Representatives from the Canadian Pork Council (CPC), Canadian Cattlemen’s Association, the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA), Olds College and Viterra attended as Canadian Summit industry sponsors. Federal Canadian representation included Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) Steve Tierney and staff of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Canadian Embassy, Washington, D.C., the Canadian Consulate Phoenix, and the Canadian Consulate Los Angeles.

The Honourable Lloyd Snelgrove, Minister of Treasury Board, attended in his role as a past member of the State Agriculture Rural Leaders (SARL) Board, the Summit’s organizing body, and as a designate for the Honourable Jack Hayden, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD).

Mission Objectives:
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 led by representatives of the Canadian Embassy in Washington D.C, the Canadian Consulate Los Angeles and AAFC. Presentations provided an overview of Canada – US relations and a regional perspective of agriculture and agri-food in the US Southwest. Mr. Ralph Eichler, Member of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly, Canadian representative to the SARL Board provided background and approach for the Summit. The meeting provided an opportunity for Canadian delegates to streamline messaging on Canada - US advocacy priorities.

The Summit included a series of panels that allowed for open discussion on key agriculture issues. Mark Lange, Edward Lowe Foundation and Janell Ehrke, GROW Nebraska, participated in the How to Support Rural Development opening plenary. The Edward Lowe Foundation focuses on second stage entrepreneurs and the development of tools and programs to support this client group. According to recent research, second stage companies, employing 10-99 employees generate a disproportionately larger share of jobs. While most programs focus on start ups and survival, priority needs to address the economic gardening needs of second stage companies. Ms. Anderson shared the GROW Nebraska outreach program. The program creates sustainable economic development by supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses through promotion, market access, and education. GROW Nebraska is funded by state and federal grants, enterprise income, corporate sponsorship, and donations.

The Rural Transportation Needs presentation highlighted how rural communities’ economic viability is dependant on their linkage to transportation. John Smith, author of Reconnecting America, provided an example of how Middleton, Mississippi’s rail linkage was the impetus for the resurrection and subsequent growth and re-vitalization of an entire rural community.

A panel on Energy and Development focussed on agriculture’s role in contributing to and enhancing development and growth of biofuels to diversify the nation’s energy supply to provide long-term energy security minimizing US dependence on foreign suppliers. The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 mandates a Renewable Fuel Standard under which the US will annually produce 36 billion gallons of biofuel, primarily ethanol, by 2022. Transitioning away from non-renewable fossil fuels without placing additional burden on the US economy is a long term challenge.

Youth Education – A Turn Towards Urban Youth highlighted how educational entities can attract urban youth to agriculture focussed careers. William Hook, Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, Dr. John Kennelly, Dean, Agriculture, Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Alberta and Dr. Dwight Armstrong, CEO, National Future Farmers of America provided an engaging discussion on attracting urban youth to their institutions. Program diversity, leadership development, linkage to food security, collaboration with educators, enhancing agriculture’s profile and promotion of agriculture literacy were seen as critical to enhancing urban youth engagement in agriculture disciplines.

The What Does Sustainability Mean? panel explored how agriculture can remain sustainable. Focus was on producing more with less, training in sustainable factory practises and not sourcing from non-sustainable regions of the world. Continued global population growth, diminishing arable land, and access to water will impact the future of agriculture and food security.

Wesley Smith of the Discovery Institute, author of A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, shared his insights on the cost and negative impact to agriculture of the animal rights movement. Dr. Martin Appelt of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Representative Troy Balderson, Ohio and Senator Bill Stouffer, Missouri, provided their thoughts on responding to animal activists. The panel shared that development of sustainable systems that are economically and scientifically viable will be key to ensuring continued growth of our industry. Standard setting bodies need to present unified fronts, and animal welfare needs to stop being competitive.

An industry panel followed up on the theme with representatives from the American Veterinary Medicine Association, Animal Agriculture Alliance, and the United Egg Producers providing an industry perspective on the unintended consequences of fast tracked animal rights legislation.

The Immigration panel included Ms. Erin Brouse, Immigration Program Manager with the Canadian Consulate, Los Angeles who provided an update on Canada’s immigration programs and their linkage to industry needs. Ms. Brouse was joined by representatives from the Growers Company and Schuller Law Firm, for their insight on US immigration policies. It was evident that Canada is the envy of the US on its approach to immigration.

Craig Settles, President, Successful.com gave a presentation on Moving Broadband from Vision to Reality. He stated that, “broadband revitalizes businesses, re-tools workforces, transforms healthcare, re-engineers education, and up-ends how we communicate.”

Steve Tierney, Assistant Deputy Minister, AAFC, provided a keynote dinner address. The focus of his presentation was on Canada-US interdependence, the priority Canada places on the US, and the importance of exploring ways to keep trade free flowing.

The evening concluded with the Canadian Consulate Los Angeles, Canadian Consulate Phoenix, AAFC, and ARD partnering to host a Canadian-themed hospitality room. This afforded the Canadian delegation the unique opportunity to engage in strategic discussions with legislators. It also provided a dedicated venue to profile Canada and the importance of the Canada-US trading relationship. Minister Snelgrove provided a perspective on state-provincial collaboration and the ability to advance our mutual interests. Canadian Board Member, Member Legislative Assembly Ralph Eichler shared his insights on the Summit affording us the ability to not only identify issues but also the opportunity to develop common solutions. The event was well received with over 100 key legislators and agriculture leaders in attendance.

Other sessions included an overview by Dr. Solomons, US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA), of the Food Modernization Act which amplifies food safety standards both from domestic processors and domestic importers. The USFDA will be doubling inspections of importing facilities over the next five years to ensure imports meet US food safety standards.

Industry panels, consisting of representatives from the crop industry and the livestock industry, provided updates on the state of play in their sectors. The crop industry highlighted: roadblocks created by burdensome regulations impeding appropriate pesticide application; biodiesel standards misaligned with appropriate timelines to address standards; and a desire to work collaboratively with the federal government on development of regional climate change legislation. The Meat Industry panel included Barry Carpenter, National Meat Association and Jurgen Preuchas representing the ALMA and CPC. Mr. Carpenter stressed the priority the US should place on finalizing a free trade agreement with Korea critical to enhancing US beef exports prior to other countries like Australia inking their agreements. Mr. Preuchas provided an update on the state of the meat industry in Alberta/Canada. He encouraged legislators to consider the impact of legislation that pits one industry sector against another such as the US ethanol legislation. He demonstrated the interconnectivity of Canada and the US and the resultant negative impact to both countries of Country of Origin (COOL) legislation.

The LAC 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 an 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 in a non-contentious environment. This year’s largest Canadian member participation is reflective of the merits of engaging with our largest trading partner.

Next year’s Summit takes place in Washington, D.C.; dates are yet to be determined.

Enhanced Canada’s profile by securing a strong Canadian presence with representation from seven provinces and federal government officials;
Expanded Alberta’s contact network of key US legislative, industry, and academia influencers;
Facilitated the development of strategic provincial/state partnerships;
Exchanged information with legislators on priority agriculture issues; and
Collaborated with Canadian elected officials and industry to advance Alberta’s agriculture interests on priority issues including COOL and US food safety protocols impacting trade.

Honourable Lloyd Snelgrove, Minister of Treasury Board

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This information published to the web on February 16, 2011.
Last Reviewed/Revised on July 4, 2014.