Saturday, June 6, 2015

U.S wheat industry bullying Canada

Wheat producers in the United States cheered when Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz pulled the plug on the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly over exports of Prairie-grown wheat.

Now they're complaining that Canada discriminates against U.S. wheats through the Canadian grading standards and restrictions. They liken their situation to Canada's complaints about U.S. Country of Origin Labelling regulations the World Trade Organization has ruled to be illegal.

I have no sympathy with the Americans on this issue.

Canada chose to set high standards for the Prairie wheat industry, a standard that has served Canadian farmers exceptionally well because the world regards Canadian wheats as the best available. And they are quite willing to pay premiums.

Canadian farmers paid a price for this standard - lower yields for the higher-quality varieties.

What the Americans want is to push Canada into the lower-quality category, to lower our reputation to their level.

They have already made inroads, black-marketing their high-yielding, but lower-quality varieties into the Prairies. That has kept Canadian officials busy guarding the integrity of Canadian standards.

There are proposals to allow the lower-quality American wheats into the Canadian market. The way to do it has been pioneered in Ontario. It starts by requiring farmers to buy only certified, pedigreed seed and to sign contracts to deliver their harvest for milling.

That ensures that buyers know exactly what variety they're getting. And it maintains high quality for milling-industry wheats.

That could be done on the Prairies, albeit with greater difficulty because of the volumes of wheat harvested there every year.  

It might also become possible if technology can be developed to screen wheat for quality when it's delivered to grain elevators. As matters stand now, grading is done visually.

In the meantime, the U.S. wheat farmers ought to be told to take a long hike off a short dock.