Many U.S. farmers oppose Canadian import competition

Grains-oilseeds


MINOT, N.D. — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has often been accused over the last 18 months of going too far with his off-colour tweets and abrasive language.

Myron Blumenthal has a different opinion: Trump doesn’t go far enough.

“I have been a big Trump supporter … mainly because of his rhetoric. I think he should turn it up,” said Blumenthal, who attended the Northern Prairies Ag Innovation Alliance conference, which was held in Minot Jan. 10-11.

Blumenthal, a grain farmer from Drake, North Dakota, agreed with Trump when it comes to U.S. trade deals such as the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“In my opinion, every trade agreement the United States has been involved in, we say ‘what do you want?’ And we just accept whatever somebody else wants and we get the short end of the stick.”

With Trump threatening to rip up or renegotiate NAFTA, companies and farmer associations in Canada are worried about disruptions to agri-food exports to America.

16-us-exports-630

Blumenthal isn’t convinced Trump will crack down on imports of Canadian grains, oilseeds or livestock, but he believes that Canadian producers have an unfair advantage.

He said growers north of the border use pesticides and other products that Americans cannot.

“The Canadian (farmers) don’t have the same rules and requirements as the United States does,” he said. “The regulations for our chemicals are much stricter on what we can use.”

Besides regulations, Blumenthal said imports from Canada depress grain prices in North Dakota.

ADVERTISMENT

“As a producer, I need the best price I can possibly get for my product. Any competition is detrimental.”

Jarrod Stubbe, who farms near Devils Lake, N.D., said producers in his region have concerns about imports of Canadian wheat.

However, if Trump proposes a tax on Canadian grain, livestock or meat, it could start an agricultural trade war.

“(It’s) kind of a double edged sword,” Stubbe said. “Because it could turn around (on us).”

Other producers at the Minot event agreed with Stubbe, particularly those who farm close to the Canadian border.

Greg Busch, who farms three kilometres from Saskatchewan in Columbus, N.D., said he was upset about wheat imports in the past, particularly when the Canadian Wheat Board was accused of dumping durum into the U.S. market.

However, trade now goes both ways, and North Dakota farmers sell grain to Canadian elevators.

“I sent probably 50 percent of last year’s wheat crop north,” Busch said.

“We’ve always sent our pulses up to processors in Saskatchewan.”

Lance Glasoe doesn’t fret about imports of Canadian grain and oilseeds. He said Canadian production is built into the broader market price, so U.S. farmers shouldn’t worry.

ADVERTISMENT

As well, he said Trump’s tough talk on NAFTA is mostly strategic.

“He’s a businessman and a negotiator, and he’s building a position of strength to negotiate from,” Glasoe said.

“He’s got everybody (panicking).”

North Dakota farmers at the Minot conference had a range of opinions on Canadian imports, but they agreed on one thing: country-of-origin labelling.

Nearly every producer supported COOL for beef, pork and other meat in the United States.

“I think the Canadians could label their product down here,” Glasoe said.

“I don’t see where that would be a liability for the Canadians.”

The Canadian government and most of the country’s farmers have a different opinion. The federal government, along with the beef and pork industries, fought the U.S. for nearly a decade over COOL.

Canada took the U.S. to the World Trade Organization, arguing the labelling law unfairly discriminated against Canadian products and violated international trade rules.

The WTO agreed with Canada several times, and the U.S. Congress repealed COOL legislation in December 2015.

ADVERTISMENT