Ontario Agriculture

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AALP Class 14 North American Study Tour - July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th, Day 8

Will and Marian led us to the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC for a briefing from the Counsellor (Agriculture), Economic and Trade Policy. Arriving at the Embassy was much like crossing the border – a security screening and random passport check, all very pleasant, no issues. Dressed in our business formal attire and sitting in the beautiful theatre downstairs full of red seats we have been looking forward to this stop all week. 

Chris Leggett outlined the nature of his role and provided the necessary background on the USDA to set the stage for our morning. Some interesting facts we learned:

  • Agricultural trade between Canada and the U.S. is complementary, at virtually the same value per annum, by country, and is incredibly important to our industry.
  • From 1948 – 2002, as the population of the U.S. (our largest export market) grew by 1% the result was an increase of 1.8% in productivity.  Ironically, 95% of the world’s population lives outside our borders.
  • USDA reflects broader administration priorities than agriculture to include economy, environment and health. We all have a role to play in promoting the importance of a healthy trading relationship.

We’ve been in the U.S. for over a week now and once we entered the Canadian Embassy we felt like we were home, with visual reminders of our nationality and heritage. Then, in walks Dale Moore and within a few words he captured our attention and we quickly remembered that we were in a different place.  The class was surprised to learn that 97% of farms in the U.S. are family-owned. After visiting so many farms this week that are heavily supported by Farm Bill programs we were shocked to learn that 70% of the Farm Bill funding goes to nutrition programs leaving the balance for agriculture and rural development. That’s one expensive Bill! Dale’s experience working on five Farm Bills and his common sense approach was enjoyed. When posed questions by the group, about supply management for example, Dale’s response was, “It is a little hard to complain about Canadian supply management with U.S. sugar in your mouth”. Refreshingly Dale highlighted the importance of putting yourself in the other position when examining agricultural issues.

A number of our classmates mentioned a stomach sinking feeling upon seeing the visit to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum on the itinerary. Rob Black, although unable to join us on the trip, connected with us this morning to prepare us for this visit by sharing, “...the tour of the [museum] was one of the most touching, memorable and powerful couple of hours I have ever spent in a museum”. As expected, it turned out to be an extremely important and very moving experience. A key takeaway from our discussion on the bus afterwards is that all leaders will have followers, regardless of their beliefs, agendas and decisions. Leadership is a tremendous responsibility that we cannot take lightly as it can be very powerful. We felt this quote encompassed the tone and impact of the museum:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists , and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” - Martin Niemöller, a German theologian and pastor who was an early Nazi supporter but was later imprisoned for opposing Hitler’s regime.

What can happen when good people stand by and say nothing...

Michel Dignard, Kelly Duffy, Peter VanBoekel - Class 14

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