In a recent media release, the National Farmers Union (NFU) points out that a United States government factsheet summarizing the agriculture-related aspects of its recent bilateral deal with Mexico suggests Canada’s unparalleled grain grading and quality assurance system is now on the NAFTA negotiating table. The document says the United States and Mexico agreed that “grading standards and services will be non-discriminatory, including for grains and that grading will operate independently from domestic registration systems for grain and oilseed varietals.”
The Council of Canadians joined farmers in the fight to keep the Canadian Wheat Board. Honorary Chairperson Maude Barlow echoed the need for the Canadian government to take a strong stance on behalf of our farmers. "Canadian grain farmers lost the Wheat Board under the Harper government, and now they may lose their system of grain grading under NAFTA. This is yet another reason to walk away from a bad trade deal.”
The U.S.-Mexican agreement seems to be part of a divide and rule strategy designed to benefit multinational grain companies that stand to gain millions, if not billions, in additional profits if Canada’s grading system is dismantled, the release states. The US Wheat Associates said they hope the Mexican deal would “spur negotiations with Canada” on the issue of grain grading. With Greg Doud, former President of the Commodity Markets Council, as the Americans’ Chief Agriculture Negotiator, it is hard to imagine that our grading system is not under attack.
The NFU has called on the Canadian government to refuse any concessions on grain grading during NAFTA talks.
“Canada’s grain grading system is the key to our international competitiveness, particularly for wheat,” said Terry Boehm, Chair of the NFU Trade Committee. “Our grain growing region is far from ocean ports, so a high-volume, low-price approach is a non-starter. Instead, our marketing strategy is to sell high value grain to customers who are willing to pay prices that cover expensive transportation costs. Our grading system allows us to produce and deliver the high quality grain all over the world – not only to Mexico and the U.S. – and our variety registration system is the foundation of our grading system.”
“With or without NAFTA, there will be trade between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico because we each have something the other countries need,” said Boehm. “But trade deals like NAFTA, the TPP, CETA, etc., are not really about trade – they’re tools the corporate sector uses to get governments to give up their ability to govern in the interests of citizens and to tie the hands of future governments. We don’t need to, and must not, give up critical economic tools that benefit Canadians for the sake of any trade agreement.”
“Canada should not legitimize the deadline dramas manufactured by a Mexican President in his final days in office after electoral defeat and the U.S. President whose focus is on his country’s mid-term elections,” said Boehm. “Our grain quality assurance systems and supply management, institutions Canadians that have created and maintained for decades and which continue to benefit farmers, consumers and the national economy, should not be sacrificed.”