Sellers of U,S. produce to Canadian buyers may be one small step closer to a risk mitigation system similar the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Perishable Agricultural Commodity Act trust provisions.

Industry leaders who took part in a Jan. 30-31 stakeholder meeting of the U.S.- Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council in Washington, D.C. reported signs of progress on the long-term goal to develop risk mitigation measures for suppliers of fresh produce to Canadian buyers.

Fred Webber, chief executive officer and president of the Ottawa-based Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corp. attended the Jan. 30-31 meeting and said it was a step in the right direction.

“It is no longer a question of if, but a question of how and when,” he said Feb. 2.

The joint industry-government council was announced last year by U.S. President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the leaders produced an action plan that includes a goal to develop financial risk mitigation tools to protect U.S. and Canadian fruit and vegetable suppliers from buyers that default on their payment obligations.

Matt McInerney, executive vice president of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers, said he was encouraged to see the council placing a priority by on developing a risk mitigation tool in Canada that would provide a level of protection to Canadian growers and handlers and also to exporters outside of Canada shipping into that market.

“The time has long past that we need to sit down and look at a mechanism that is going to facilitate moving this to some level of implementation,” he said.

The Canadian system likely won’t be an exact replica of USDA PACA trust provisions, McInerney said.