On November 23 the ASB Provincial Committee was pleased to meet with Minister of Agriculture and Forestry, Devin Dreeshen for a half hour virtual visit. After a brief apology for not being able to meet in person Dreeshen turned the meeting over to Committee Chair Corey Beck. After thanking the Minister for his letter of support for keeping Strychnine registered to use in Alberta, and for the initiative to protect Alberta farms from illegal protestors, the Chair relayed concerns being voiced by farmers over trailing or end point royalty system for farm saved seed.
It was reported in media that the federal government was in the process of making a decision about changing seed regulations to include an end point royalty or trailing royalty, and they had been facilitating discussions with producers across Canada about this issue in the fall of 2019. Since COVID there has been little in the media about this issue, and CFIA has not responded to inquires from the Committee. The Minister stated that royalties were not on the agenda of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Agricultural (FPT)) Ministers meetings. Their discussions and concerns related more to a competitive regulatory system that did not prevent peer reviewed varieties from coming into Canada or being accepted by our trading partners.
The Minister informed the Committee that the Agriculture Ministers are discussing the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA), a branch of Health Canada that is responsible for pesticide regulation in Canada, recent decisions and activities that are making live difficult for farmers to access and use the tools they need.
With the recent changes to the ministry the Minister identified the focus on the things that matter and is pleased with the progress so far in the department. They have reduced the number of Assistant Deputy Ministers and worked hard to not affect the services to the client. When asked specifically about the Ag Info Centre changes, the Minister invited the Committee to forward specific examples of gaps or issues so they can be addressed.
The Chair expressed to the Minister the issues and concerns with the delay in the Resource Stream funding. The Minister was reluctant to confirm funding prior to the budget announcement but identified the value in the Resource Management Stream funding and would like to keep it going.
The final words from the Minister were to challenge the ASBs to look for Red Tape Reduction items that could be done to streamline or modernize processes that would make easier and better for ASBs and the producers that they represent.