It wasn't on his public schedule, but Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack huddled with Canadian Ag Minister Gerry Ritz ahead of the USDA annual outlook conference last week.
Ritz told reporters that he and Vilsack had a frank and wide-ranging conversation about the $33 billion a year Canadian-U.S. ag trade relationship.
"Tom and I know that our agricultural industries are integrated and interdependent," Ritz said. "At this stage of our economic recoveries no one can afford a thickening of the border. That's why our two countries are committed to reducing duplication and streamlining regulation. It is unnecessary red tape that adds to the cost of producers and processors and prevents cross-border trade flows."
Ritz said the two ag leaders also discussed the role of biotechnology in feeding a growing global population.
"Countries and their consumers need to understand that the only way to achieve a sustainable food supply is through innovative, science-based technology," Ritz said. "Canada continues to work closely with our like-minded trading partners like the U.S., to develop a globally-accepted, science-based approach to low level permits for GM material."
Vilsack mentioned his meeting with Ritz during an appearance later in the day and said both countries agree that science holds the key to increasing agricultural productivity.
"They also agree that we need to have more partners in the international community," Vilsack said. "So most of our discussion was how do we get the Europeans, the Chinese, folks from Africa, folks from South America to understand and appreciate that this science is the way in which we are going to feed an ever increasing world population and the way in which we are going to continue to figure out ways to do stuff in a sustainable, renewable way with less water, less pesticides, less chemicals and be able to adapt to a changing climate."
Ritz also said he lobbied Vilsack on the benefits to U.S. agriculture of having Canada join the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiation.