Agriculture in Canada, not to mention the Liberal party, has taken a step forward with the appointment of Guelph MP Frank Valeriote as the Grits’ agriculture and rural critic. Besides the change in the weather, it’s one of the best things to happen to agriculture and food in the past week.

The Liberals made the announcement last Wednesday, calling Guelph the “epicentre” for agricultural and food research and inferring that geography was one reason parliamentarian Valeriote weighed in as a contender.

Indeed, Ontario is Canada’s leading agricultural province, and Guelph is central to that advanced standing, especially in research. The Ontario regional headquarters for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is in Guelph, as is a federal food research program. Provincially, Guelph is home to the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the research agreement with the University of Guelph, and the $1-billion-plus in spin-offs the agreement provides. Being an elected official in Guelph certainly means being aware of agriculture and food; being appointed an agriculture and food critic at the federal level by a national party shows, in Valeriote’s case, how deep that awareness is, and must be.

I write about Valeriote’s appointment in  my Urban Cowboy column in the Guelph Mercury.  The photo here of the new Liberal agriculture critic was taken by the Guelph Mercury on the campaign trail.