Member of Parliament for Battlefords-Lloydminster
Press Releases
Think it Through

Democracy is responsibility. It's a responsibility not only to vote, but to carefully consider the issues represented by each choice on the ballot. The pieces on this page provide media views as well as analysis of some of the underlying issues facing Canada and this constituency.

Canadian farmers welcome new U.S. agriculture boss

Calgary Herald, Dec. 3, 2004

The appointment of a new U.S. secretary of agriculture "from a strong livestock state" won praise in Canadian farming circles Thursday.

U.S. President George W. Bush named Nebraska Gov. Mike Johanns to the position, prompting observers in this country to suggest Johanns would understand the challenges facing producers in both countries.

He replaces Ann Veneman, who became agriculture secretary in 2001 after a career in Californian politics.

One farming expert suggested Thursday that Johanns' arrival -- the U.S. Senate must still confirm his appointment -- could smooth relations between the two neighbours in the aftermath of the mad cow crisis and speed up a reopening of the border to more Canadian cattle and beef. It was closed 18 months ago and has cost Canadian producers billions.

"He'll be up to speed on a lot of the issues," said Saskatchewan Conservative MP Gerry Ritz, a farmer himself and one of his party's strongest voices on agricultural affairs. "We should see quicker resolution on some contentious issues, I'm hopeful."

Stan Eby, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, also welcomed Johanns' nomination.

"Coming from a strong livestock state, he'll understand the issues within the cattle industry, the integrated nature of our industries," he said.

Johanns, 54, has spent the past six years as governor of Nebraska. A lawyer, born in Iowa and raised on a dairy farm, he's known as a moderate Republican.

Johanns is on record as opposing the U.S. Agriculture Department's practice of publishing preliminary test results of cows screened for potentially deadly mad cow disease.

Positive results from rapid preliminary testing often come back negative when further, more reliable, tests are performed.

Such a case occurred in the U.S. earlier this month.

Johanns has argued the effect of published preliminary testing can unduly influence not only public opinion, but also the financial markets.

Environmentalists in the U.S. were reportedly unhappy with Johanns' nomination, suggesting he would represent agribusiness better than small-scale family farmers.

While visiting Ottawa this week, Bush said he understood the plight of Canadian farmers, who cannot send live cattle to be processed south of the border.

The U.S. government has taken steps recently to bring an end to the border shutdown, but many believe the Canada-U.S. cattle trade will likely not restart before next spring.

A spokeswoman for federal Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell said Mitchell had sent his congratulations to Johanns and would be contacting him as soon as possible to discuss agricultural issues.


Ritz congratulates Nebraska governor on nomination as Agriculture Secretary


December 2, 2021

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada


Governor Mike Johanns

Lincoln, Nebraska, United States


Governor Johanns,


I wish to extend my congratulations on your nomination for appointment as the new Secretary of Agriculture for the United States of America. Having travelled extensively throughout Nebraska in the past, it is very similar to the area I represent.


As the Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Agriculture Committee in Canada, and a Conservative Member of Parliament for rural Saskatchewan, I look forward to working with you in the near future on many important issues facing the producers of North America. Specifically, I look forward to working together in the resumption of normal agricultural trade relations between our great nations.



Gerry Ritz, MP



U.S. awaits mad-cow call: Positive result would put U.S. and Canada on equal footing

Victoria Times Colonist, Nov. 19

OTTAWA -- The possible discovery of a new case of mad cow disease in the United States shows the two countries share a common -- but minimal -- problem with the potentially fatal malady, beef industry and political representatives said Thursday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it would run further tissue tests on an animal after preliminary testing raised the possibility of mad cow disease.

The co-chair of the House of Commons agriculture committee said a positive test result next week could prove to groups that have lobbied for the U.S. border to remain shut to Canadian cattle that the two countries face the same challenge.

"The basic thing I'm hearing from home is that if it is positive, it certainly puts the States and us on a more level playing field when we talk about borders opening and closing," said Saskatchewan Conservative MP Gerry Ritz. "Now the States [would be] in the same boat we are."

Federal Agriculture Minister Andy Mitchell said it would take up to a week for the U.S. to have conclusive results.

A single case of mad cow in Canada shut down much of the Canada-U.S. beef trade 18 months ago. "This type of thing was anticipated and we mustn't jump to conclusions," said Stan Eby, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, in Kincardine, Ont.

Moreover, Eby said, a positive result shouldn't interrupt efforts to end the mad cow crisis here, such as re-opening the U.S. border to Canadian cattle imports.

"This was a rapid test that was inconclusive," he added. "I don't see any particular reason to curtail any discussion regarding border issues."

Canadian reaction was largely muted, in part because preliminary testing in two other U.S. cases last summer came back negative after closer inspection.

"If this does turn up to be positive, it still remains that the U.S. and Canada are at minimum BSE status [according to international guidelines]," Eby said.

The U.S. and other countries shut down beef and cattle trade with Canada after a cow on an Alberta farm was found in May 2003 to have bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.

Attempts to restart Canada-U.S. trade were dealt a blow last December when a cow in Washington state was also diagnosed with BSE.

That cow was traced back to Canada, but U.S. officials would not speculate Thursday on the origins of the latest cow believed to have mad cow disease.

At an agriculture committee meeting, Mitchell said the government was prepared if the case turns out to be positive.

"We've had a very specific and targeted policy," Mitchell said, explaining steps announced earlier this fall to increase domestic slaughter capacity within Canada's beef industry.

That measure, aimed at moving stockpiled cattle off Canadian farmers' lands, became necessary after the U.S. border remained closed to live Canadian cattle imports.


Beefed-up feed ban delayed

Canuck food inspectors repeat warnings of future cases of mad cow

Toronto Sun, Nov. 17, 2004

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has not yet implemented a critical new element of its feed ban as part of its measures to combat another outbreak of mad cow disease - 18 months after an international panel urged it to do so.

In a briefing to media yesterday, CFIA outlined a number of measures it's taking to prevent another case of bovine spongiform encepalopathy (BSE) from emerging in Canada, including the ban of specified risk material (SRM) - contaminated tissue in cows.

CFIA spokesman Billy Hewitt said the delay in bringing in the beefed-up feed ban is the result of consulting a number of experts on the issue.

"We began consulting on a series of options for enhancing the feed ban almost within weeks of the investigation last summer of 2003. We at CFIA have been engaged in discussions not just in Canada but also with the Food and Drug Administration in the United States," Hewitt said.

It's not known when the new ban will be brought in. CFIA also repeated an earlier warning that there could be future cases of BSE in Canada.

Conservative MP Gerry Ritz said the feds have been dragging their feet.

"We're out there on the international stage saying 'Open our borders, open our borders' but we still haven't done the homework that was given to us a year-and-a-half ago." 

Pushing for Action on Agriculture

Farmers donít dwell on set backs; they just get down to work.

The day after this past election Conservatives got working for farmers.

As soon as the votes were counted we sent a letter to the Prime Minister. I outlined issues facing agriculture: the livestock producers continued to struggle with mad cow disease fallout, many issues surrounding the avian flu outbreak remained unresolved, farm safety-net programs were full of holes, and farmers were running out of time.

The letter immediately went to the Prime Minister as well as media outlets on June 29. We asked to have members from all parties immediately meet to discuss and implement solutions Canadian agriculture urgently requires.

No meeting was called. No solutions were brought forward. The response to my letter didnít even arrive until more than a month later on Aug. 4.

ďPlease be assured your comments have been carefully reviewed,Ē wrote P. Monteith, the Prime Ministerís executive correspondence officer. The response went on to say the original letter also went to cabinet ministers who might be interested. ďI am certain that the Ministers will give your views every consideration.Ē

A nice enough letter; better late than never. The problem is that while the ministers spend months considering, ranchers are wondering if their calves will sell for enough to pay the bills and grain farmers are wondering if safety-net programs will be there when frost strikes. Nice, late letters donít answer urgent questions.

Agriculture requires action. Itís action we demand to see when the government outlines its plan in the Throne Speech on Oct. 4. Weíll continue to demand action.


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