Trade spat with U.S. weighs on Al­berta farm­ers, ranch­ers

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - AMANDA STEPHEN­SON astephen­ @Aman­daMsteph

The trade bat­tle be­tween Canada and the U.S. is cast­ing a shadow over Al­berta’s agri­cul­ture in­dus­try, as farm­ers and ranch­ers face tar­iffs on in­put costs and in­creased un­cer­tainty in the mar­ket.

While raw agri­cul­tural com­modi­ties have so far been ex­cluded from United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s crosshairs as he seeks to dis­rupt the North Amer­i­can sta­tus quo on trade, Cana­dian pro­duc­ers are al­ready feel­ing the ef­fects of the bur­geon­ing trade war. Cana­dian re­tal­ia­tory tar­iffs on U.S. steel and alu­minum that came into ef­fect on July 1, this coun­try’s re­sponse to an ear­lier move by the U.S. to im­pose im­port du­ties of 25 per cent and 10 per cent re­spec­tively on Cana­dian steel and alu­minum, mean the cost of ev­ery­thing from trac­tors and com­bines to cat­tle chutes and equine pens is ris­ing.

“Our ma­chin­ery and a lot of our agri­cul­tural equip­ment — ba­si­cally ev­ery­thing is made with steel and it does come from across the line,” said Brad Osad­czuk, who ranches in south­east Al­berta and was help­ing to show­case the prov­ince’s beef in­dus­try at the Calgary Stampede’s UFA Cat­tle Trail ex­hibit on Fri­day. “It’s just hearsay, but I’m hear­ing peo­ple say they’re see­ing as high as a 30 per cent markup on some stuff com­ing across the bor­der.”

“It’s on every­body’s mind,” said Wal­ter Moe­bis, a grain farmer from north of Swift Cur­rent, Sask., who was also vol­un­teer­ing at Stampede. “Farm­ers are at the mercy of the mar­ket. Is it go­ing to es­ca­late? Is there more of this com­ing? No­body has a def­i­nite an­swer and those are the kind of things that are putting stress on farm­ers.”

Al­berta Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Oneil Car­lier said he has spo­ken to sev­eral farm equip­ment deal­er­ships in the prov­ince, who have told him their costs have al­ready gone up.

“We had a re­ally good year last year where there were record sales set in farm ma­chin­ery,” he said. “I’m a lit­tle con­cerned that there’s go­ing to be a bit of a down­turn on that just be­cause of what’s go­ing on down in the States.”

Car­lier, who was at Stampede to an­nounce $90 million in fed­eral-pro­vin­cial fund­ing for mar­ket growth, di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, agri­cul­ture lit­er­acy and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams (part of a five-year part­ner­ship on agri­cul­ture ini­tia­tives) said the over­all mood among in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives tak­ing part in the 10-day event is pos­i­tive. He said in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing a del­e­ga­tion from the United Arab Emi­rates, have vis­ited Stampede this week to learn more about Al­berta agri­cul­tural ex­ports and make con­tacts for fu­ture in­vest­ment.

“But my big­gest con­cern is the un­cer­tainty. NAFTA and other trade agree­ments be­tween the three coun­tries (Canada, the U.S., and Mex­ico) work great for agri­cul­ture,” Car­lier said. “My wish for any­body, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment and the Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment as well … is for Pete’s sake, don’t mess it up.”


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