On March 4th we said goodbye to Europe and headed West to North America.We hit the halfway mark in our Global Focus Program while in Washington, DC. After a short night’s sleep, we started the morning on March 5th with a meeting at the Canadian Embassy. It was interesting to have both a Canadian and Australian Trade Councillor in our meeting at the same time to discuss trading partnerships between our countries and the US. I always knew that the US was Canada’s biggest trading partner, but hadn’t really contemplated the significance of trade to both countries. Did you know that there are reports for each US state and Canadian province that outlines the Canada-US trade and the most significant products for each area?
While in DC, we learned a lot about the US Farm Bill and proposed changes for the next 5 year program, starting in 2013. The amount of dollars in the US Farm Bill is staggering, but we learned that about 80% of it is directed toward domestic food aid and nutrition programs.
In Canada, we hear a lot about the US Farm Bill and its impact on Canadian agriculture. I found it really valuable to see first hand where some of these discussions take place and speak with US government staff that are directly involved with developing the programs and negotiating budgets. One of our meetings was held in the US Senate Committee on Agriculture room.
This was an impressive room with a balcony overlooking the US Capitol Building.The decisions made in this room have shaped US Agriculture and the impacts of these decisions have had global reach.
We did a fair bit of walking around Washington to get from one meeting to another. Some of my Aussie friends were fascinated by the squirrels running around the parks. Apparently they don’t have squirrels in Australia! Another first for 3 of our travellers was SNOW!! It happened that we were standing outside the White House gate when the first flakes came down.