We welcome guest writers to all of our Todayville platforms. Here’s a submission from Emily Folk. Emily is passionate about agricultural sustainability and more of her work can be found on her site, Conservation Folks. In this story, Emily Folk explains the USMCA Impact on Agriculture.
What Could USMCA Mean for Agriculture and Biotechnology?
The United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA) has been in the news a lot lately. The leaders of the respective nations signed the trade agreement on November 30, 2019, and ratification is pending. You can think of the USMCA as an updated version of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
U.S. President Donald Trump vowed to renegotiate NAFTA after publicly speaking unfavourably about it. The USMCA is the result of that vow. The agreement spans several areas, such as the origin of automobile parts and new labor laws in Mexico that make it easier for workers to unionize. The USMCA also has a “sunset clause” that makes its terms expire after 16 years. Plus, every six years, the leaders of the countries involved must agree on whether to extend the deal.
Some agriculture-specific stipulations also exist within the USMCA. Additionally, the agreement notably mentions biotechnology. Here’s a closer look at how the USMCA might change these two industries.
More Exporting Opportunities for Farmers
One of the key points often mentioned about the USMCA is that parties expect the agreement to cause a $2 billion increase in U.S. agriculture exports, triggering a $65 billion rise in U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Canada and Mexico are currently the top two exporting markets for American farmers, supporting more than 325,000 American jobs. In 2018, the food and agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico totaled more than $39.7 billion.
The USMCA also opens exporting opportunities that did not exist before. Now, U.S. dairy farmers will have expanded access to send products such as fluid and powdered milk, cheese and cream to Canadian parties. There will also no longer be U.S. tariffs on whey and margarine. This change is notable, considering the Canadian dairy market produced roughly 17% of the United States’ annual output over the past three years.
In exchange, Canada will give the United States new access to chicken and eggs, plus increased access to turkey. Plus, all other agriculture products traded between the U.S. and Mexico will be under a zero-tariff model.
Moving Forward With Agricultural Biotechnology
Another improvement associated with the USMCA is that it looks at agricultural technology more broadly than other trade agreements have.
For example, the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a proposed trade agreement between 12 nations — only addressed biotechnology regarding recombinant DNA (rDNA). That process involves joining the molecules from two different species, then inserting the product into a host to create new genetic combinations. Instead, the USMCA opens possibilities for all kinds of agricultural technology, including gene editing. Moving ahead with biotechnology could be crucial for addressing pressing matters that affect agriculture, such as water scarcity.
Approximately 700 million people suffer from water scarcity, and that number could double by 2025. Also, the agriculture industry is the greatest user of water. Things must change — both to address the growing water scarcity problem and to give farmers more options for growing things without using so much water.
Biotechnology has already helped, and it seems highly likely to continue spurring progress. In one example, scientists altered the expression of one gene common to all plants. This change led to a 25% increase in the plants’ water-use efficiency without adversely impacting yield or photosynthesis.
As part of the USMCA, Mexico, Canada and the United States agreed to improve information sharing and cooperation about biotechnology matters related to trade. That change could speed new developments, resulting in positive outcomes for all involved groups and the world at large.
Fairer Agricultural Grading Standards
A grading system for agricultural products defines trading procedures. For example, commercial buyers of a product grown in another country refer to the grading standards to set expectations about a product’s quality. The USMCA specifies that Canada will evaluate U.S. imported wheat and assign it a grade no less favourable than it would give Canadian-grown wheat.
Canada will also no longer require country of origin statements associated with inspection certificates or quality grades. The United States and Canada will discuss issues related to seed regulations under the USMCA, too.
Concerning Mexico and the United States, the two countries agreed to non-discriminatory grading standards and services. Moreover, a dialogue will begin between the two countries to flesh out the details for quality standards and grading regarding trade.
A Promising Future
It’s too early to say what the real-life effects will be of the changes outlined here. But, the commitments laid out within the USMCA seem like they’ll represent clear improvements for agriculture professionals, as well as everyone who benefits from their goods.
I’m Emily Folk, and I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. Growing up I had a love of animals, and after countless marathons of watching Animal Planet documentaries, I developed a passion for ecology and conservation. You can read more of my work by clicking this link: Conservation Folks.
City Council urged to get back to the table to vote on future of Westerner Park
Letter submitted by Lyn Radford (Chair of the 2019 Canada Winter Games)
Lack of Council Leadership or Election Posturing?
In this unprecedented time of the pandemic, of polarized political views I have tried to stay out of commenting on decisions our political leaders have to make. We all know there is not usually a clear-cut answer. But this delay situation by City Council regarding the Westerner clearly baffles me.
First, I want to send out a thank you to both the Westerner and City Administration for their hard work and excellent reports and options for this very unfortunate situation. Second, I want to thank the Westerner Board for not running from a situation but rather staying to try to sort out a mess. As a volunteer myself, I know this has not been an easy situation for you and your families. I also want to acknowledge Councillors Wyntjes and Dawe for wanting to move this forward, whatever their decision would have been.
The City’s Vision Statement and Strategic Goals clearly lays out a pathway to help guide Council to make a positive, community benefiting decisions. “Innovative Thinking, Inspired Results, Vibrant Community” are their key words.
Strategic Goal #4 “A chosen destination: We are a four-season destination where visitors and residents enjoy our parks, trails and distinctive amenities, all within our “city in a park”. Centrally located in the province, we attract events that generate investment and enhance our community identity.
My question is how by delaying a decision does City Council justify following their Vision Statement and Strategic Goals.
I add these queries and statements:
- You have had more than year to gather information, make enquiries, have closed council information sessions, spoke to community members, and should have delved into this. You received the report far in advance of the special session and should have come ready for a decision without delay. Why did this not happen?
- The City has been locked and instep with the Westerner in the last year. The Westerner has fulfilled all requests and have been measured through two (very expensive) audits by Deloitte.
- There is over $3.5 million generously donated by a private family, held in trust for the Westerner Foundation, that could be doubled with a potential matching grant that will be dispersed upon a sustainable decision for Westerner Park, if a deal has been reached by May 15th. And our community will most likely lose this because of this delay. Sad.
- If CIBC closes on the loan for default (community this is very, very real), there will be hundreds of thousands of dollars spent putting this into receivership, of which our community will have no gain or say. And further, we will not have an event center capable of hosting the economic driver our community so sorely needs right now, as we know what the vacant downtown and business parks are looking like today.
- How much staff time has been spent already? Spend more money delaying a decision, no matter what the cost?
- Twice, not just once, in your session, councillors questioned the capabilities of the Westerners CEO. Did you not have time in the closed sessions to request a character assessment? Do councillors feel this was the right, very public forum for this? Rather than being able to say you did your due diligence in a professional and respective manner?
- Through the whole poor decision making by the Westerner Board that brought this terrible situation forward, there were three members of today’s council that actively sat on the Westerner Board. Maybe some ownership needs to happen here and a review of the responsibility process for Councillors to be revisited, giving a level of responsibility to council. If you want to sit at the table, then accept all the responsibility as every other board member has had to do.
- Further, the initial loan that started this process way back in 2017 and subsequent refinancing all had to be signed through a tri-party agreement by the City of Red Deer, fully knowing that this result could happen. Why is there any hesitation here?
- The window of borrowing from the province is very small now, missing this will create more costs.
- The Westerner annually, has been contributing a $150 million/year economic impact to our community. They were one of the largest employer’s, well over 600 employees each year and then add all the employees of the supporting vendors, we can comfortably say that in a year well over a thousand of our community members that pay property taxes are impacted by the Westerner directly.
- The Westerner has been a volunteer ran organization for 130 years. These volunteers and eventually along with paid staff have contributed so much to our “vibrant community”, building an asset value of over $57 Million dollars. This is a big bump but not a mountain, lets deal with it.
- No matter who you are or what your interests are, the Westerner has been providing experiences for us for 130 years – concerts, sporting events, rodeo events, fairs, shopping opportunities, cultural experiences, first jobs, first dates, health fairs, Agri trade, a place to first learn to drive, the day you wed, celebrating the season, ringing the New Year……all for our community
In conclusion, what we need right now is Council members to host a special meeting immediately and make a decision one way or another. I sincerely hope the decision will be to support, empower, trust and not control or try to compete with the community run Westerner Board, volunteers, and staff to rebuild a “distinct community amenity”. It can become a strong thriving contributing member of our broken community once again. We are in need of some strong leadership.
Carbon Tax and Clean Fuel Standard a double blow to Canadian farmers
This post is submitted by Red Deer Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen
MP DREESHEN TABLES PETITION ON CARBON TAX
AND CLEAN FUEL STANDARD IN HOUSE OF COMMONS
MP Earl Dreeshen tabled a petition in the House of Commons today, on Canada’s Agriculture Day, calling on the Liberal government to exempt all direct and indirect input costs that the Carbon Tax imposes on farmers, while also calling on the government to repeal the Clean Fuel Standard.
“Canadian farmers and ranchers are losing tens-of-thousands of dollars in net income each year because of the Liberal government’s ill-conceived carbon tax and that is simply not sustainable for most of them,” MP Dreeshen said.
‘Our global competitors are not burdened by the huge carbon tax debt. But Canadian farmers and ranchers do not have the ability to add the carbon tax levy to the price of their product. They have to pay this tax as it is levied by their input suppliers. Exempting input costs will put Canadian farmers on an equal footing with their international competitors and allow them to keep producing the world’s best and most nutritious foods.”
The Liberal government announced at the end of last year that the carbon tax will triple to $170 per tonne by 2030 following a commitment made in the last election that the tax would not increase beyond $50 per tonne. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, a farm in Alberta with 850 seeded acres of crops can expect the Liberal government’s carbon tax cost it more than $17,000 per year once the tax reaches $50 per tonne in 2022.
The Liberal government is also proceeding with the so-called Clean Fuel Standard, which some studies estimate will represent a total cost to the Canadian economy of $7 to $15 billion and 50,000 lost jobs, including an impact of $389 million to the Agricultural sector. “Nobody needs or wants an extra tax on top of another tax so we need to repeal the CFS before it even gets off the ground,” MP Dreeshen said.
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