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Agriculture

Drive to ratify new North American trade deal gets lift from U.S. TV exposure

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OTTAWA — The push for the speedy passage of the new NAFTA is getting a boost from a big advertising campaign in the United States.

An alliance of U.S. companies, trade associations and lobbyists launched a series of TV commercials and digital ads Monday that it hopes will inspire more Americans to push their congressional representatives to ratify the continental trade agreement.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, if ratified, will replace the North American Free Trade Agreement. The deal, signed by the three countries’ leaders in November, must be approved by Congress before it comes into force.

U.S. President Donald Trump has called on Congress to support the new deal, which he argues will lift the American farm sector, bring back lost manufacturing jobs and reinvigorate the auto industry.

The campaign by the “Pass USMCA Coalition” promotes what the group sees as the deal’s economic benefits. It arrives as Trump’s trade czar, Robert Lighthizer, expands efforts to meet with Democrats in Washington to discuss their concerns about the agreement.

The coalition’s 16 members include the Canadian American Business Council, the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Chicken Council, Dow and Domino’s Pizza.

Its honorary co-chairs are former New York congressman Joe Crowley and Gary Locke, who served as U.S. ambassador to China, commerce secretary in the Obama administration and governor of Washington state. Both are Democrats, but Rick Dearborn, Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, is the coalition’s executive director.

The initial 30-second TV ad, set to run for three weeks in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., tells viewers that a “new era of economic and creative prosperity is within reach.”

“The U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement will level the playing field for our workers, consumers and farmers with more free markets, fairer trade and robust economic growth,” says the ad, which cost just over US$1 million. “By increasing exports, raising wages and accelerating innovation, it will propel U.S. trade into the 21st century.”

It then calls on voters to contact lawmakers and urge the deal’s swift ratification.

Trump administration officials, including Lighthizer, have been meeting Democrats in hope of securing bipartisan support for the USMCA.

Democrats, empowered by their new majority in the House of Representatives, and some Republicans have said they won’t vote for NAFTA 2.0 in its current form.

Among the complaints, Democrats say the agreement lacks labour and environmental enforcement measures, and some don’t like its extended drug-patent protections. To enact the deal, U.S. officials say those congressional concerns will have to be dealt with in so-called side letters or in the bill Congress eventually votes on.

Last Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told the Economic Club of Washington that Lighthizer has been “really very respectful” in his efforts and has listened to members on both sides of the aisle.

Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press

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Agriculture

Olymel temporarily closes due to COVID-19

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This is a news release from Olymel L.P.

Olymel announces the temporary closing of its Red Deer plant

Olymel management is announcing the temporary closing of its hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning plant in Red Deer, Alberta. Despite the testing protocols and sanitary measures already in place, as well as the close collaboration of Alberta Health Services to deal with a resurgence of positive cases of Covid-19 among plant employees, Olymel management believes that the conditions are no longer assembled to continue normal operations in a safe and efficient manner.

After notifying the union, Olymel management drew up an orderly temporary closing plan for an indefinite period. Over the next few days, plant management will mobilize the staff necessary to cease operations and complete the facility closure as soon as possible. The sanitary measures will continue to be in effect at the plant during the shutdown and Olymel management will be in contact with officials at Alberta Health Services to continue working closely with this organization.

Olymel sincerely hopes that all employees at the Red Deer plant who have tested positive for Covid-19 soon regain their health. The company will follow up with all employees to ensure their quarantine period is being respected and will strongly encourage all staff to get tested before returning to work. Olymel will also continue ongoing investigations to determine what may have caused such a large outbreak of Covid-19 cases since January 20.

Olymel management has also informed all hog suppliers of the Red Deer plant of the situation and has suspended all pending deliveries until further notice.

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Agriculture

What’s going on in India?

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In many places around the world, the global turmoil of 2020 has been deeply exacerbated by accompanying political violence. The United States, Belarus, and India are just a few locations that have faced growing levels of internal violence and discord as political protests have led to dangerous clashes between citizens and governing bodies. 

In India, where the COVID-19 pandemic has been rampant throughout the course of 2020, citizens have also experienced ongoing political uncertainty as recent protests against the Narendra Modi government have been met with violence. 

Prime Minister Narenda Modi

The upheaval began in August in response to the Modi government’s decision to pass 3 reform laws that would negatively impact local farmers in India’s agricultural sector. The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, the Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, and the Essential Commodities Bill were passed on September 20, 2020. These laws, which were allegedly hurried through parliament with little to no regard for the concerns expressed by existing farming organizations in India, serve to ease corporate restrictions and remove regulations put in place to protect farmers and their product. 

Although there does appear to be a consensus surrounding the need for reform in India’s agricultural sector, the laws passed by the Modi government have been condemned for failing to meet the requirements of a fair, legitimate transition. According to Time, “While the government says the new laws will “empower farmers”, unions say the rule changes are not policies they have asked for. Instead they fear that instead of trying to help farmers, the government is opening the door to big corporations who may eventually force them off their land and out of their business.” 

Peaceful protests then emerged as a public response to the actions of the Modi government. The protests, which originated in Punjab and Haryana as a collaborative movement among Indian farmers, have since mobilized tens of thousands of farmers and supporters from across the country to march on the Indian capital. The protestors flooded New Delhi’s main entry points, where they have since set up camps to maintain their position and stand firmly for their cause, requesting the repeal of the 3 reform bills. 

Despite the peaceful nature of the protests, where many of the participants are senior members of the community, since September they have been increasingly met with violence from the state. “Protestors have been met with water cannons on some of the coldest winter days Delhi has experienced,” Global News reported in December, “along with tear gas, concrete barricades, and some were even beaten with batons.” As a result of state-mandated violence and harsh outdoor conditions in Delhi, a total of 65 deaths were reported between November 26, 2020 and January 3, 2021 (1).
Individuals and organizations around the world have since come forward to stand in solidarity with Indian farmers and condemn the acts of violence being perpetrated against them by military and law enforcement. 

On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, the Indian Supreme Court announced it was “halting the market-friendly laws until a committee of experts, appointed by the court, could consult with government officials and protesting farmers to try to find a solution to the dispute” (2). However, protestors have expressed initial skepticism following this announcement, and intend to maintain their positions within the protest camps until the laws are repealed. 

“It’s cold and it’s hard to arrange water every morning for a bath,” says Shabek Singh, a member of the protests who remains camped in one of the established tent cities, “but we’re not going anywhere. We will make this our temple” (3).

 

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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