A tireless champion for Canadian agriculture, the Honourable Gerry Ritz brought transformational changes to the industry during his eight years as federal agriculture minister. His energy and tenacity saw Canada’s agri-food sector gain new ground as a powerhouse of the Canadian economy through trade deals, policy changes and investments in innovation.
Born into a farming family in Delisle, SK, Gerry entered politics in 1997 as the Member of Parliament for Battlefords-Lloydminster. His 20-year career included eight years as Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food from 2007-2015 – a period that saw Canadian agricultural exports increase by a staggering 77%.
Gerry will always be remembered as the federal agriculture minister who brought marketing freedom to western Canadian grain farmers by removing the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly in 2012 – a move that opened markets for wheat and barley, and increased growth and investments in the Canadian grain industry. In 2014, he was instrumental in improving rail service for farmers with Bill C-30 the Fair Rail for Grain Farmers Act.
Gerry pushed for free and unfettered trade to broaden market access for Canadian agriculture and agri-food products with groundbreaking free trade agreements. He played a primary role in encouraging Europe to negotiate a free trade deal with Canada, resulting in the Canadian-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). Gerry made certain that CETA – a deal that brought 28 countries into free trade with Canada – was the best possible deal for agriculture as a whole.
His unprecedented efforts to decrease Canada’s reliance on the United States were integral to what is today the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) between Canada, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Gerry fought unfair trade barriers for Canadian agriculture goods around the globe, including actively opposing the United States move to mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) for meat. He increased investments in science, innovation and competitiveness through the establishment of Growing Forward programs that injected $4.3 billion throughout the Canadian agriculture value chain over a 10-year period.
In 2017, Gerry was presented with the Beef Industry Innovation and Sustainability Award by the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association in recognition of his contributions to the competitiveness and sustainability of the Canadian beef industry.
The Canadian agriculture industry is arguably more competitive, more profitable and more sustainable because of Gerry’s commitment to put farmers first. His work around the cabinet table – and around the world – is felt around Canadian farm kitchen tables