Grain Growers of Canada lobby Parliament Hill

Agriculture can help restart Canada's economy and the federal government help by addressing some issues, group says

Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel. (GGC video screengrab)

Agriculture can help revitalize Canada’s post-COVID economy, but the federal government should clear the track for it.

That means updating regulations to encourage technological innovation, improving market access for agricultural exports and recognizing farm practices that help the environment, Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) says.

The organization, which represents 15 regional, provincial and national grain farmer groups, took that message to Ottawa last week during its post-harvest lobby effort, GGC executive director Erin Gowriluk said in an interview Tuesday.

“Our theme is ‘Growing Back Better’ and we’re building on the government plan to build back better,” she said. “That’s really about what Canadian farmers need to position the sector as one that is really going to contribute to the post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Why it matters: The federal government has identified increased agriculture and food exports as way to boost Canada’s economy, but the Grain Growers of Canada say the federal government can help agriculture to do more.

Canadian farmers rely heavily on exports, but there are no exports without access to international markets. The Canadian government has focused on negotiating and ratifying new trade agreements.

“We are actually calling on the government for a policy pivot with respect to international trade,” Gowriluk said.

“Let’s implement and enforce those trade deals. And then let’s look very closely at the market access challenges we’re having in India and China where we don’t have free trade agreements, but we do need more government support.”

In March 2019 China all-but-ceased importing canola seed from Canada, claiming it was contaminated with weed seeds and plant diseases. But it was widely believed to be in retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Chinese tech giant Huawei’s chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018 at the U.S. government’s behest.

Canadian canola oil and soybean exports to China fell too. Although canola seed and oil exports to China have increased since, they haven’t fully recovered.

Tariffs have also disrupted Canadian pulse exports to India.

“Certainly China banning exports of canola has hurt us,” Saskatchewan farmer Paul Thoroughgood said in the GGC video, entitled Today’s Modern Grain Farm: A Harvest Across Canada.

“It probably knocked 50 cents to a dollar off the price, which immediately hits your bottom line. It also hurt our ability to deliver and be able to make cash flow…”

The video debuted Monday as the GGC launched its lobby effort with around 100 MPs and senators taking part online, Gowriluk said.

Saskatchewan farmer Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel says in the video that China’s trade action “keeps me up at night, that’s how concerned I am about it.”

Canada needs to diversify its markets, she added.

For the full story, see the Nov. 26 edition of the Manitoba Co-operator.

— Allan Dawson is a reporter for the Manitoba Co-operator at Miami, Man.

Paul Thoroughgood

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