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New Government in Ottawa – New Opportunities for Ag (PCN Fall 2016) SEP 19 2016 | Consumers and Producers | Pulse Crop News

This article appeared in the Fall 2016 issue of Pulse Crop News.

Fiona Cook, Grain Growers of Canada

Spring and summer brought with them the winds of change (and some pretty extreme heat!) here at Grain Growers in Ottawa. I am very pleased to have been chosen as Executive Director, joining the organization in May.

While my background with the Forest Products and the Chemistry Industry Associations of Canada put me on solid footing to lead an industry organization, I had never worked directly in agriculture. It has been an exciting first few months and a bit like drinking from the fire hose to get up to speed on our issues, and the support that I have received from GGC members has been extraordinary.

I can truly say that this has to be the most engaged and passionate group I have ever worked with. Every single member is in “farm politics” for the same reason – to develop a policy landscape that allows the industry to achieve its fullest potential. My personal views are very much in line with those of GGC members. I have always believed that respect for the environment, economic progress and human development go hand in hand.

One key agriculture issue with which I am very familiar is transportation. Be it chemicals, forest products or grain, virtually all sectors of the Canadian economy are affected by the service provided by the railways. I know that the stakes are high and there have been disappointments along the way, but I believe that we must and can work with the railways and the government to find a permanent and workable solution.

GGC has been, and will continue to be, actively engaged with Transport Canada as they complete their review of the Canada Transportation Act. This is an excellent opportunity for us to ensure that the needs of grain farmers are heard. We received some sound guidance from participants in our Transportation Panel at the GGC Board Meeting in PEI in July and will be moving forward with our submission due in September, followed by outreach to officials and parliamentarians.

I am particularly excited to be coming into a new industry with a new government in Ottawa. Fresh faces mean new opportunities for collaboration – there are close to 200 new MPs in this Parliament – and we’re working hard to prepare for an aggressive advocacy program starting when the House of Commons returns in the fall.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has mandated his government to place a strong focus on innovation, linking many ministries, including Agriculture and Agri-Food, to drive their ambitious agenda. Agriculture is one of the most innovative industries in our country, so I will be telling that story in my meetings with decision makers of all levels. GGC will be submitting our comments to the government as part of their search for creative and inspiring ideas. We will need clear examples of how grain farmers innovate on their farms and would welcome your suggestions.

Sustainability is another key area of focus as the need to address concerns around social license and public trust becomes more pressing. As you know, pulses give back and are an excellent choice for increasing the positive environmental impacts and economics of crop rotation.

The work being done by groups like APG to promote the International Year of Pulses has helped to bring this important and often under-valued grain category to the forefront. All of us at the GGC offices happily took the “Pulse Pledge” and are trying to add more pulses into our diets.

Thank you to everyone at APG who has supported my rapid transition at GGC, and I look forward to what the future brings!