Don’t let grain farmers be­come a ca­su­alty of new trade agree­ment

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - Opinion - CAM GOFF

Canada is con­fronting an un­prece­dented cri­sis as we deal with the global COVID-19 pandemic. On March 12, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and at least two other MPs had to self-iso­late af­ter be­ing ex­posed to the virus. The fol­low­ing day, Par­lia­ment de­cided not to carry on busi­ness as usual and moved to re­cess un­til April 20. At the same time, both the House of Com­mons and the Se­nate deemed Bill C-4, — the leg­is­la­tion tot im­ple­ment the Canada-U.S.Mex­ico trade agree­ment (CUSMA) — passed at Third Reading be­fore de­bate in the Se­nate had even be­gun.

In­cluded in Bill C-4 was a se­ries of om­nibus style amend­ments to the Canada Grain Act (CGA) that af­fect the Cana­dian Grain Com­mis­sion (CGC), which were not ne­go­ti­ated in CUSMA and have noth­ing to do with im­ple­ment­ing the trade deal.

Be­cause all at­ten­tion was fo­cused on the CUSMA deal it­self, these amend­ments tucked into Bill C-4 evaded proper scru­tiny by the House of Com­mons.

Canada’s CUSMA ne­go­tia­tors agreed to treat wheat grown in the U.S. the same as Cana­dian wheat and not iden­tify its country of ori­gin on in­spec­tion doc­u­ments.

How­ever, Bill C-4 makes it so Canada must treat all Amer­i­can-grown grain — not just wheat — as if it were Cana­di­an­grown.

It also en­ables reg­u­la­tions that would al­low in­spec­tors to as­sign Cana­dian grades to grain grown out­side of Canada or the U.S., and it both weak­ens the CGC’s au­thor­ity in ar­eas that af­fect grain trans­porta­tion and qual­ity con­trol and in­creases el­e­va­tor com­pany power over farmers.

The Na­tional Farmers Union in­formed a num­ber of Se­na­tors of our con­cerns and on March 11, dur­ing the Se­nate In­ter­na­tional Trade Com­mit­tee’s prestudy of Bill C-4, Sen. Mas­si­cotte

asked the Chief Agri­cul­ture Ne­go­tia­tor and Di­rec­tor Gen­eral from Agri­cul­ture and Agri-Food Canada, whether the NFU’s un­der­stand­ing of the bill was cor­rect. The re­ply was that we were cor­rect in our anal­y­sis of the changes be­ing un­nec­es­sary, in­clud­ing the change from U.S. wheat, agreed to in CUSMA, to U.S. grain.

By al­low­ing U.S.-grown grain of all types (bar­ley, corn, soy, oats, etc.) into our grain han­dling and ex­port sys­tem, we can also ex­pect im­pacts on our grain trans­porta­tion sys­tem.

One can imag­ine that Amer­i­can ship­pers would take ad­van­tage of Canada’s rail sys­tem in­stead of us­ing more ex­pen­sive U.S. trans­port, making ca­pac­ity is­sues and bot­tle­necks worse. Rail­ways would no doubt sug­gest “solv­ing” the prob­lem by end­ing the rev­enue cap (MRE) and al­low­ing them to raise freight rates to what­ever the mar­ket could bear.

When Bill C-4 re­ceived Royal Assent on March 12, it ended the pos­si­bil­ity of amend­ing Bill C-4 to re­move the un­nec­es­sary clauses af­fect­ing the CGA. All of this was done af­ter the gov­ern­ment had given no­tice of con­sul­ta­tions on the CGA, to be­gin in March (now de­layed).

It is hard to see Bill C-4’s un­nec­es­sary amend­ments as anything other than an end-run de­signed to avoid pub­lic de­bate.

Now, farmers need to work to­gether. It is im­per­a­tive to get these harm­ful parts of the bill re­moved be­fore the CUSMA goes into ef­fect on June 11.

Al­low­ing Bill C-4’s amend­ments to the Canada Grain Act to stand would be an af­front to the decades of work done by farmers and our pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and agen­cies to es­tab­lish pre­mium mar­kets and cus­tomer loy­alty based on the qual­ity of Cana­dian grain. Cam Goff op­er­ates a grain farm with his broth­ers near Hanley, Saskatchew­an and is a mem­ber of the Na­tional Farmers Union.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.