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Agriculture

Farmers demand strong political response to expanding trade obstacles for Canada

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  • OTTAWA — Canola farmers whose livelihoods have been targeted by China in its feud with Canada say it’s time for the federal government to be aggressive at the political level in its fight against a growing number of agricultural trade barriers around the world.

    Several producers told two parliamentary committees Tuesday that China’s recent rejection of Canadian canola-seed shipments is only the latest trade disruption that’s hurt the country’s agriculture sector.

    They reminded MPs in Ottawa about a number of major trade obstacles faced by Canadian agricultural exporters in faraway markets like India, Italy, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

    “Canada can feed the world but not if our government does not act strongly on our behalf, removing non-tariff trade barriers, enforcing existing trade agreements and removing political roadblocks,” Alberta canola farmer Stephen Vandervalk told the House of Commons agriculture committee.

    Citing concerns about pests, China has rejected canola-seed imports from Canada and has suspended the licences of two major Canadian exporters.

    The moves to cut off the critical Canadian export have been widely viewed as China applying economic pressure on Canada in response to the December arrest of senior Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver at the behest of the United States.

    Any extended canola dispute with China, which imported $2.7 billion worth of canola seed from Canada last year, would deliver a painful economic blow to producers, the supply chain and the wider Canadian economy. 

    The price of canola has fallen since the dispute started last month. The late-winter timing of the disruption has been particularly difficult because it’s forced many farmers to suddenly rethink the planting decisions vital to their businesses.

    On Tuesday, producers made it clear to MPs at the committees that even with the urgency around the China conflict, the pain is not only about canola. Canadian farmers, they said, are staring at other big trade hurdles in world markets.

    Several of the witnesses mentioned issues that have affected Canada’s durum wheat exports to Italy, wheat sales to Vietnam, pulse exports to India and feed-barley shipments to Saudi Arabia.

    Saskatchewan grain farmer Mehgin Reynolds (who is seeking a Conservative party nomination) told MPs that, for instance, her four-year crop rotation includes lentils, barley, canola and durum wheat — all products that face obstacles on foreign markets.

    “The frightening reality is that almost every crop being grown in Canada is currently struggling with one trade barrier or another,” Reynolds said.

    The Liberal government has insisted it wants to find a scientific solution to the canola dispute, in keeping with China’s insistence that the problem is tainted seeds.

    The Liberals have established a working group that includes officials from Richardson International Ltd. and Viterra Inc. — the two exporters that have had their licences to sell canola revoked by China — and representatives from the governments of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau has requested to send a delegation of experts to China to examine the issue. She’s said officials are exploring options to support farmers by expanding existing programs.

    Canola producer Mark Kaun told the committee it’s time for the Canadian government to start playing “hardball.”

    “There’s a pile of imports that come into this country from China — and maybe some of their ships should sit and wait in the water,” Kaun said. “Canadian canola is contaminated — it’s contaminated with political dirt and bureaucracy.”

    “This is a political issue plain and simple. Political problems need political solutions,” agreed Vandervalk, who’s also vice-president representing Alberta with the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association.

    “If we must play the game of grain inspections, so be it. But in the meantime Canadian grain farmers are the ones paying the price for the political failings.”

    Andy Blatchford, The Canadian Press


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    Ag Politics

    WATCH: When Boycotts Don’t Work

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  • What do you do when you want to boycott something, but can’t?

    This video is a co-production. Ryan Tipps at Ag Daily and Nick Saik worked on this piece together.  It’s about what can happen when bitten by a particular nasty little tick.  This tick, the “Lone Star” tick, has saliva that triggers an immune response reprogram in humans.  This in turn triggers an allergy to all types of red meat, such as beef, lamb and pork. In Nick’s words:

    “He’s written an excellent article that you can checkout here: https://www.agdaily.com/insights/when… Heads Up: I use a political analogy in this video. It’s not meant to rile anyone up, it just seemed like a good way to explain my point. I don’t care what side of the political spectrum you fall on, it was just an analogy….”

    This video was produced independently by Know Ideas Media


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    Agriculture

    Feds’ plan for neonicotinoids makes little sense, environment groups say

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  • OTTAWA — Environment groups are calling out Canada’s approach to assessing pesticides after seven years of reviews led Health Canada to simultaneously decide to allow certain popular products to keep being used with restrictions, and to propose banning the same products from outdoor uses altogether.

    The Pest Management Regulatory Agency on Thursday released its final decision on what limits should be placed on a category of nicotine-based pesticides known as neonicotinoids to keep them from killing bees. Starting in two years, the pesticides won’t be allowed to be sprayed at all on certain crops like apples and tree nuts and there will be limited times when they can be sprayed on many others, like tomatoes, eggplants and berries.

    Products that have no alternatives are given an extra year before they are affected by the decision.

    The agency said the risks the products pose to bees in other applications, such as pre-treating seeds, are acceptable and only require new labels to warn of the dangers. Most of Canada’s canola and corn crop seeds are pre-treated with neonicotinoids, along with about half the country’s soybean seeds.

    However, this decision, which won’t begin to take effect until 2021, will likely be overridden in less than a year when the agency finalizes a separate assessment of the exact same products for their impact on aquatic insects. The agency found in 2016 that the most popular of the neonicotinoids was building up in ground and surface water and recommended banning it outright. It also launched a special assessment of the other two most common “neonics,” concluding in 2018 that they also needed to be banned.

    The very final decision on that won’t come until January 2020.

    “Right now this is strictly about the risk to pollinators and for this assessment not all uses pose an unacceptable risk to pollinators,” said Scott Kirby, the director general of the environmental-assessment division of the pest management agency.

    Lisa Gue, a senior researcher at the David Suzuki Foundation, said it is “disturbing” that the agency is continuing to allow neonicotinoids at all given that the agency’s scientists have concluded they cause unacceptable harm to any kinds of insects.

    “The decision-making process here is just incomprehensible and incoherent,” she said.

    Beatrice Olivastri, the executive director of Friends of the Earth Canada, said the agency’s fragmented approach to reviewing the products is “nonsensical.”

    Neonicotinoids are used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike to manage pests like aphids and spider mites. Scientists blame the chemicals for weakening bees, making them more susceptible to disease and bad weather.

    More than one-third of the world’s food crops require pollinators, like bees, for production.

    The European Union banned neonicotinoids at the end of last year after scientists concluded there was no safe way to use them without hurting bees. In 2017, a task force at the International Union for Conservation of Nature updated a compilation of more than 1,100 peer-reviewed research studies of neonicotinoids and concluded there was no doubt they harm bees.

    Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press



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