09/09/2011 06:28 EDT | Updated 11/09/2011 05:12 EST

Cairns group calls for freer trade, reduction of agriculture subsidies

SASKATOON - A group representing one-quarter of global agriculture trade says they want a more predictable trading system.

The Cairns Group met in Saskatoon this week and talked about how to jump-start World Trade Organization discussions.

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said Friday in a news release that for the first time, group members talked about how innovation and rules-based trade rooted in sound science can help open up markets and meet global food security objectives.

Australian Trade Minister Craig Emerson says a multi-lateral trade deal is needed to reduce agricultural subsidies and trade barriers.

The Cairns Group will spend the next three months talking to other countries in advance of the World Trade Organization ministerial meetings in December.

Ritz also said the Cairns Group likes Canada's decision to let farmers market their own wheat, durum and barley instead of through the Canadian Wheat Board.

Ritz also said he met with Morocco Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch to discuss the benefits that a future free trade agreement will bring to farmers from both countries. The first round of negotiations will take place the week of Oct. 11 in Ottawa.

Terry Boehm, president of the National Farmers Union, says a new world trade agreement would not help small- to medium-size producers.

Boehm says a liberalized trade agenda benefits large grain and fertilizer companies more than farmers.

Boehm adds that in spite of increased agricultural production and trade, many farmers are still saddled with large amounts of debt.

(CJWW, The Canadian Press)