FROM THE EDITOR: April 2006
I’ve long been a believer in what effective communication can do to bridge the gap
By Kristy Nudds
I’ve long been a believer in what effective communication can do to
bridge the gap between agriculture, consumers, and government.
Communication, in any form, is a powerful tool for getting your voice
and message heard. It serves to break down knowledge barriers and
promote better understanding amongst all parties involved.
I’ve long been a believer in what effective communication can do to bridge the gap between agriculture, consumers, and government. Communication, in any form, is a powerful tool for getting your voice and message heard. It serves to break down knowledge barriers and promote better understanding amongst all parties involved.
Right now, with supply management still unresolved from the WTO sessions in December, coupled with the frenzied media hype over avian flu, it’s crucial that the Canadian poultry industry let government know that supply management is an asset and that a national strategy and compensation plan is needed if avian influenza should arrive here.
Communication with government officials is particularly top of mind right now, as we have a new federal government that offered an extremely weak – if non-existent – agricultural platform.
We can’t let this government ignore the interests of the poultry industry.
With any change in staff – particularly in government – there is what often seems as a painfully long window of time before the ministers get up to speed and actually start doing anything useful, if you can call it that.
That’s why the Chicken Farmers of Canada have urged you to get your voices heard by rallying your local members of parliament, and keep the issue of supply management in the forefront.
Mike Dungate, General Manager for CFC, indicated during the Annual General Meeting of the Chicken Farmers of Saskatchewan that with the recent election, the country has seven MPs coming from ridings that have large agricultural producing regions, which is advantageous to the industry.
He proclaimed March as rally month, and urged producers to speak to their MPs and MPPs, letting them know how important supply management is to Canada and the poultry industry, and that it must be protected under the sensitive products category at the next round of WTO talks at the end of this month.
This was echoed by Erroll Halkai, general manager of CBHEMA, at the Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission Annual General Meeting in early March. Halkai said, “sensitive products is the only area that will allow supply management to survive.”
Halkai said what producers can do is to arrange to meet with their MPs and MPPs, and deliver the supply management message, translating it for government on a personal level. Also important, according to Halkai, is to ask how their party will support supply management and to follow-up – making sure that the MP or MPP did what was asked.
The sensitive products category at the WTO talks is not far off. I hope that the CFC’s urging struck a chord with many of you, and that you had your voices heard by government. But it’s never too late to start!
With respect to government understanding of how avian influenza will affect the poultry industry, we may have a key ally in Chuck Strahl, the recently appointed minister of agriculture and agri-food (as well as the Canadian Wheat Board). With recent reports that avian influenza will hit North America by the end of this year, at least we have a representative that is familiar with this disease, having witnessed the devastating outbreak in his home riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Valley in British Columbia in 2004.
Mr. Strahl has, in my view, been moving rather quickly for a federal minister, having met with provincial agricultural ministers during late February and early March, and as I am writing this, currently touring the Canadian Food Inspection Agency facilities in Alberta.
I certainly don’t envy Mr. Strahl and the enormity of the tasks he faces. He certainly walked into a firestorm.
Mr. Strahl championed for poultry producers affected by the 2004 outbreak to receive fast and fair compensation. Unfortunately, he wasn’t as effective as he had hoped in this respect. But, as the federal agriculture minister, if H5N1 should arrive in Canada, we can reserve some confidence that he now has a stronger leg to stand on when dealing with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Regardless of what happens, continue to get in the face of government. Write letters, meet with MPs and MPPs, check Mr. Strahl’s and others’ websites for updates.
This year is gearing up to be a challenging one for the poultry industry – keep talking to government and make them understand that this industry is vital to Canada, and its needs and challenges should not be ignored.