Water key to meeting world food demand

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The world’s food supply relies on water, and Canada is one of only five countries in the world with the capacity to increase food production, say water experts.

David Hill, program director of the Alberta Water Research Institute, spoke about world water challenges to about 220 participants at the Water, Agriculture and the Environment conference in Lethbridge in November .

Hill says water scarcities, water-stressed populations, increased food prices and climate change are global realities. Furthermore, agricultural, municipal and industrial water demands are increasing while about 70 river basins around the world are declining, affecting 1.4 billion people.

Unfortunately, investments in agricultural research are decreasing, there have been few changes in incentives. Even when prices are high, there are many closed doors to drought-or temperature-resistant GMOs, and water-related conflicts are growing.

Hill says that climate change will play a major role in world water supply as temperatures and evaporation increase, sea levels

“COOL has significantly impeded Canada’s ability to market livestock in the U. S.”

– CANADIAN CATTLEMEN’S ASSOCIATION

CCA lists five strategies besides the WTO process it plans to pursue while the case is underway.

Lobbying the U. S. Department of Agriculture to make COOL less onerous. The rule is only interim and can still be changed before March 31, 2009.

Encouraging U. S. producer groups to voice their concerns. CCA says American producers are starting to realize COOL, which took effect Sept. 30, means more paperwork for them.

Possibly challenging the rule in the U. S. courts.

Developing strategies to market more Canadian beef to U. S. retailers.

Pressuring Ottawa to restore offshore beef markets (e. g., Korea) that closed their doors to Canadian beef post-BSE.

Back at the WTO, Canada will argue COOL violates an agreement on technical barriers to trade (TBT). Under TBT, meat must be labelled according to where the animal was slaughtered, not where it was born, said John Masswohl, CCA’s international relations director.

Canada can also argue COOL unfairly discriminates against imported products and violates reasonable market access expectations, Masswohl said.

Canada maintains international trade law requires the U. S. to treat Canadian cattle as favourably as its own.

Ottawa announced its intentions to challenge COOL Dec. 1. Both sides must meet within 30 days to see if a settlement is possible. Consultations must last a minimum 60 days. If there is no agreement, the WTO case goes ahead.

In a statement, CCA said COOL “has significantly impeded Canada’s ability to market livestock in the U. S.”

Because U. S. meat packing plants must handle Canadian cattle separately from U. S. cattle at additional cost, many are now refusing cattle from Canada. Plants which still accept Canadian cattle discount them and limit their acceptance to certain days.

CCA posted a map on its web-site showing nearly all plants in the U. S. Midwest no longer take cattle shipped directly from Canada to slaughter. Some still accept cattle born in Canada and raised in the U. S.

The combination of lower prices for Canadian cattle and the higher cost of shipping them to plants that are further away loses producers $90 an animal, CCA estimates.

The association places the total loss to the Canadian industry caused by COOL at $400 million a year, or more than $1 million a day.

Ironically, all this is happening at a time when cattle prices should be increasing, said Masswohl.

The Canadian dollar is lower in value against the U. S. dollar, making exports more lucrative. Feed and energy costs are also lower, reducing producers’ expenses.

But the losses resulting from fewer markets to the south undermine the advantage Canadian producers should have, Masswohl said. “The $90 is an opportunity cost. It’s lost revenue that should be there.” [email protected]

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