Scott Peters, chair of Manitoba Pork’s public relations committee says a recent visit by staff of the U.S. Senate and House Agriculture Committees provided an opportunity to showcase agriculture in the province and discuss key issues.
On June 30, Manitoba Pork hosted a tour organized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Embassy in Washington, of central and southeastern Manitoba involving staff from the U.S. Senate and House Committees on Agriculture.
The group visited Starlite Colony near Starbuck, a hemp field near Miami, a mixed farm near Roland, the border crossing at Emerson and the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre.
“The goal was to build allies as the two countries work to resolve U.S. country of origin labelling (M-COOL), and to share information on the importance of Canada-U.S. agricultural trade,” said Peters. “Our first stop was a visit to the Starlite Colony near Starbuck, which illustrated the efficiency of the colony system with its clearly defined roles and strong work ethic.”
He says next the group stopped at a hemp field near Miami, learning how farmers grow this plant and the various uses for it. From there it was to a farm south of Roland, where the group enjoyed a great lunch and a hayride to see spring wheat and soybeans.
“In Emerson we got a lesson in border crossing history and politics. Finally, a stop at the Bruce D. Campbell Farm and Food Discovery Centre at the University of Manitoba showed our guests how we teach agriculture in Canada,” said Peters. “Overall, it was an interesting day spent discussing agriculture policy and the effects of M-COOL on both countries. It’s always a pleasure to spend time with our allies – and now friends – from south of the border.”
Peters says the visitors learned about agriculture in Manitoba, changing their perspective to a great degree.
“The first half of the van ride was just getting to know everybody because nobody really knew anybody inside the van because they were from all over the U.S. and all over Manitoba,” he said. “It was interesting that some of the people were from Nebraska and Arkansas and they all ended up in Washington, including one person from Brandon, MB.”
The second half of the van ride, mostly after lunch, the group perked up a bit and started discussing some of the political issues between the two countries.
“Of course we discussed M-COOL and the effects of the disruption of the live pig transport to the U.S. from Canada,” he said. “Of course, how the industry estimates the losses on the financial side around $3,000,000,000 and how it hurt our industry. It also slowed expansion and ultimately killed some of the smaller farms. There wasn’t enough profit to expand and to upgrade some of their facilities so it’s been a very negative thing to the industry.”
Peters feels the Americans received the message well and there appeared to be an agreement that COOL has hurt the pork industry greatly, recognizing there should be a freer flow of animal movements across the border.  •
— By Harry Siemens