By Amanda Brodhagen, Farms.com
Seven years ago today, on August 14th 2007, Gerry Ritz (Battlefords-Lloydminister MP) was sworn in as the Minister of Agriculture, making him one of the longest-serving agriculture ministers in Canadian history.
“My BlackBerry buzzed a few times,” Ritz recalled in an interview with Farms.com. He explained that that one of his contacts wished him “congratulations.” Puzzled by the BBM message at first, he had not realized that 7-years ago today was when he took over the reins of the agriculture portfolio from now retired MP, Chuck Strahl.
Ritz was calling from Atlantic Canada, where earlier he had met with beef farmers at the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association semi-annual meeting in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Following Ritz’s re-appointment in 2013, Grain Growers of Canada issued a statement which called him one of the “most influential” ministers that the agriculture community has seen in decades.
Prior to entering politics, Ritz was a farmer, owned and operated a general contracting business, and also co-owned a weekly newspaper.
Reflecting on his key accomplishments since he took on the role of minister of agriculture, he emphasizes the relationships that have been developed over the years.
“The working relationship that we have with the provinces, as well as industry, and the whole supply chain, from the farm gate right through to processing and onto the exports, has really strengthened,” he said.
But he says that much of the success is because of the strong team at Agriculture Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and his own team of political staff who have worked hard to serve the Canadian agricultural industry.
One of the biggest triumphs for Ritz was brining marketing freedom to Western Canada, specifically the end of the Canadian Wheat Board (CWB) monopoly. “Some of the changes that we made to the single desk of the CWB certainty has allowed our grain sector to expand and continue to market a great quality product,” he noted.
He went on to describe some of the complimentary legislation that has helped the grain industry in the west. Ritz says that the “rail regulations that we’ve now put in place under the umbrella Bill C-30 [Canadian Grain Act] give our logistics system a chance to actually work in a more commercial rate.”
The Minister thanks Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his caucus colleagues for their continued support for agriculture. “They understand agriculture. They understand the importance of agriculture - right from the farm gate - to the value that it brings to the economy,” he said, recalling that through the 2008 recession, agriculture has remained stable.
He says that farmers can expect “more of the same” from the government in the future as they plan to focus on trade and innovation. Ritz is pleased with the work that has been done to date “The way we are rolling things out. The way we are working with industry has been very successful,” he said.
“I find it hard to believe that it’s been seven years. Most of it has gone by in a blink of an eye,” he explained. “It’s so rewarding to be part of all these different things that are happening. At the end of the day I am proud of what we’ve done.”
(Contributed photo: Gerry Ritz being sworn in as Canada’s agriculture minister on August 14, 2007)