‘Buy Local’ OK if voluntary but not when forced by gov’t

Canadian honey producers are being stung by a “buy American” campaign employed by U.S. honey packers.

It is vexing that this development is lowering the price that Canadian honey producers get south of the border, but given that the campaign is voluntary, there is little to do.

We have examples here in Canada where “buy Canadian” became a major issue. Think of the furor when A&W and Earls didn’t buy Canadian beef and when Heinz stopped processing Canadian tomatoes in Canada for its ketchup.

From a producer’s point of view, buy local is great when it helps you but not so great when it limits your sales.

Buy local campaigns are open to anyone. When voluntary, they are simply a marketing tool like many others.

Where they become a problem is when people are brainwashed into thinking that local is always better than imported, and even worse, when governments try to enforce local buying through trade barriers.

The supposed superiority of local food has become a mantra among some celebrity chefs and environmentalists.

Going on gut feelings, without much serious research, they argue that food grown locally has a smaller carbon footprint because it travels fewer kilometres to get to the dinner plate. They also paint a picture that nearby farmers are more environmentally or socially aware simply because they are local.

In reality, the majority of food’s carbon footprint is in the inputs used to produce it, not in transportation. Once tonnes of food are loaded on a big truck or ship, the fuel used to move each kilogram many kilometres is so tiny that it is almost irrelevant.

And climate plays a big part in the efficiency of food production. Transporting fruits and vegetables from warm areas where the climate allows the crops to thrive is more efficient than growing them in heated greenhouses.

As for being socially aware, that is an attribute unrelated to geography.

In the case of U.S. honey packers, they decided to employ the buy American strategy to address a scandal where two big packers improperly imported cheap Chinese honey, which critics say is produced by beekeepers who use antibiotics that that are not allowed in North America.

The packers had attempted to avoid paying U.S. duties of more than 200 percent on Chinese honey. The duties were imposed because the U.S. government found the honey was dumped at less than its fair market value.

Indeed, Canadian beekeepers also complain about cheap, imported Chinese honey in product packaged in this country.

Now that U.S. packers buy only American honey, they are helping American producers but blocking out Canadian producers, whose honey is at least as good, safe and fairly produced as U.S. product and possibly better.

If a product that is imported is determined to be tainted, dangerous or dumped at a price below the cost of production, then it should be blocked by the government.

But to push a “buy local” government policy, as U.S. President Donald Trump does, simply to protect local industry and jobs, inhibits the competition that encourages innovation, drives efficiency, reduces inputs like energy and lowers costs.

Buying local is fine when it is voluntary, but when imposed by government it dampens economic growth and hurts us all.

Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod, D’Arce McMillan and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.

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Comments

  • Harold

    Those who buy local are brainwashed? Let me introduce you into the real world where your fiction doesn’t exist. If I buy local – who’s jobs am I supporting, and whos families am I supporting, and who am I keeping off of the unemployment lines and taxpayer funded social services programs and who’s economy am I supporting – and if I buy imports – who’s jobs am I supporting and who’s economy? You’re saying that it is the brainwashed who are buying local? Perhaps you need to go back to the drawing board and re-think your positions. The USA are not stupid and neither are we. You don’t import the “Honey” that you already have, and are trying to sell, and leave your own workers and producers cashless and unemployed. If we buy their “Honey” to support their economy; then what happens to ours? – If the USA buys our “Honey” to support our economy, then what happens to theirs? – and you think Trump is being stupid? Perhaps if you took your anti-Trump brain-washing out of your minds for once – you might see a much clearer Canadian picture. Your reporting of events are a diss-service to the readers. How does it prosper the USA if we flood them with the products that already have? How does it prosper us – if the USA floods us with the products that we already have? If they do flood us, what is left for us to manufacture and to sell? When you are producing nothing, you are not looking for employees to help you achieve that goal – and to that nothing there is a void in the economy – and dollars taken from your wallet to pay for the import – and the wallet empty for the lack of a job needed to fill it and that is what a nothing does. “Buying local is fine when it is voluntary, but when imposed by government it dampens economic growth and hurts us all” you say? Give your head a shake.
    You say that the Celebrity chefs -” without much serious research” … blah blah blah – but you lack in the ability to take away exactly what the chefs are truly saying. Fresh tastes better than stale and warehouse stored produce and the sooner you can get it – the better it tastes. Chefs care about the best flavor, that is their job, and if you had a fresh tomato growing in your garden, the Chef would say take that one, and do not buy local or import. The chef would also say that the tomatoes’ in your garden is as local as you can possibly get. Chefs are not in the business of sorting out your editorial BS so your use of them to help you in your vision quest is in vain. Chefs are asked to respond to questions that are not job related and reporters are too stupid to understand.
    A Heinz industry insider (USA) who in fact orders product for Heinz told me that Heinz uses beans in their product to off-set the costs of tomatoes. Do you think that this has an effect on Canadian grown tomatoes? I hate to be the one to burst your tiny bubbles, so you can burst them yourself and check it out. If Canadians made their own ketchup industry, would it contain more tomatoes, and whose jobs and whose produce and whose economy would it be of benefit to? Are we supposed to fear the loss of Heinz or should we see the loss as a new Canadian opportunity? What would a fear monger say?
    Heated greenhouses are in place for a reason, and not just a whim, and demand places them where they are found. What they are starting to do with greenhouses is to trap the Co2 emissions and then feed them back to the plants, and because Co2 is plant food – guess what happens? Apparently it is not only the Chef who is without much serious research; did you guys have a “gut feeling” too?
    If we Canadians all create, buy, and sell through exports – only Canadian made products from our resources and industry – how strong will Canada’s economy and job market become? The answer is a no-brainer and the need to protect your economy is also no-brainer. If this is a NO-BRAINER – then why can’t the WP editorial staff understand that this is a normal and reasonable and responsible thing and that Trump is also doing the same thing; Is it because we are not doing this, or can’t do this because we stupidly gave it away to the globalists years ago – and now Trump and the USA are to blame for our stupidity and they are obligated to fix it? It’s also a NO-BRAINER!! Me good – Trump and USA bad – because I’m on Canadian soil, and me good – Canada bad – because I am on American soil – is the resolve between two idiots.

  • alora hughes

    This article is very interesting as it points out both sides of this statement. It is certainly not bad to buy local in any way, and as the article states it is fine when used voluntarily. What the article states is negative is when governments try to enforce buying local through trade barriers. Trade is widely known to increase innovation and make everyone better off. In certain situations it is important to buy local and support those around you. However, what the article does state is that it is not nearly as efficient to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables close to home when they have been grown in a greenhouse which is inefficient in some parts of the world ( like Canada) during the winter. In these cases it is beneficial to purchase fruit and vegetables that have been imported as they grow in naturally hot conditions and are more prosperous. While the article states individuals are “brainwashed” I would not go as far as to state that. It is important to have a balance of both purchasing local when it is appropriate, and purchasing imported food when it locally grown is inefficient. At the end of the day it is important to support those close to home, but also keep trade open and increase the wellbeing for everyone involved in trade. Trade barriers harm economic growth and cause a lack of motivation and innovation which does not benefit anyone.

    • Harold

      Trade barriers protect the economy that we have and yes barriers do not produce economic growth. Without a barrier, our economy decreases, due to manufacturing losses and job losses and government bail outs and social assistance programs all funded by taxpayers who have just lost industry and jobs. Government bail outs are NOT profit dollars – they are all DEBT dollars that the tax payer now owes and now added to the National debt – plus interest. and that is the reason for the barrier – to prevent this from happening. So the dilemma is – do you place a barrier to protect the economy that you have, or do you risk a drop in the economy and an increase in the national Debt for not having the barrier at all. How you stimulate economic growth with a barrier in place is you keep that barrier in place and import raw materials of another sort – and from that import manufacture a product for trade. In other words, import steel and create an industry and jobs that produces car frames and sell those frames within your country as well as sell the frames back to the supplier (Exporter) and worldwide if possible. Imports should always be raw products or materials that are given to our industry for manufacturing of a product, and that products sale – local and abroad. The products that require a barrier to keep the economy stable remain in place. You never import what you already have or can already make; that kills industry, jobs, and the economy and especially if you do not have trade barriers in place; if we import the things that we already have we become the consumers of money and not the creators of money. You import produce when you don’t have it, and ignoring our greenhouses to favor imports is consuming money not creating it. What astonishes me is how many people that there are who do not understand what the economy is or how it even works. It is no wonder why Canadian’s are sitting Idle watching as Trudeau and the Finance Minister are blowing 100 billion debt dollars and more of taxpayer (our) money and coming back with tax laws for more debt tax dollars to blow. That is debt money plus interest that taxpayers now owe, and have to work for – to repay it. The corrupt education system is responsible for that failure.

  • old grouchy

    As one who has refused to buy ‘vine ripened’ tomatoes in the stores for years because of the most often total lack of flavor the idea on transport is a joke. You can eat your flavor-less foods. I very much prefer my food to have flavor – – – but most often I eat my own or obtain from those that I know.

    • Harold

      I agree with you and I do the same. The “Vine ripened” tomatoes is only a sales gimmick and the vine is only an illusion of fresh picked product. The flavor of the product speaks for its self and uncovers the gimmick.

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