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Parties set to debate agriculture April 11 in Ottawa

Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Gerry Ritz and opposition party members will take part in a national leaders' debate on agriculture Monday, April 11 in Ottawa.

The debate is hosted by the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. Topics will include trade, business risk management, environmental sustainability, food safety and a national food strategy, according to a press release posted on the federation's website today.

Ritz will join Liberal agriculture and agri-food critic Wayne Easter, Bloc Québécois agriculture and food critic André Bellavance, Green Party advocate for sustainable agriculture Kate Storey and the NDP's Pat Martin, MP for Winnipeg Centre.

The NDP's agriculture critic is Alex Atamanenko, MP for B.C.'s Southern Interior riding. He participated in the national leaders' debate on agriculture ahead of the 2008 federal election, but this year is focusing on campaigning in his riding, which is expected to be a close race between Atamanenko and Conservative candidate Stephen Hill.

"It's a very busy time and a very difficult time to get back to Ottawa," said his campaign manager Kelly Phipps, who said Atamanenko will help Martin prepare for the debate.

The debate will be broadcast on the Canadian Public Affairs Channel and webcast live on the Canadian Federation of Agriculture's website.

Colleen Kimmett reports for The Tyee.

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