The man responsible for delivering farm aid to American farmers and ranchers says Canadian farmers need to look inward before casting outward dispersion about subsidies.
John Hoeven, chair of the United States Senate agriculture appropriations subcommittee, said the latest announcement of US$19 billion of aid is within the rules.
“We do try to provide assistance to our producers in ways that are fair in terms of trade,” he told journalists attending a Zoom meeting hosted by the North American Agricultural Journalists association.
The COVID-19 aid package includes $16 billion in direct payments with $9.6 billion going to livestock producers, $3.9 billion set aside for row crop farmers, $2.1 billion for the specialty crops sector and $500 million for other crops.
He said those pointing the finger at the U.S. for having trade-distorting programs need to take a closer look at themselves.
“I have to tell you, there’s a very strong feeling in our country, and I share it, that we need to be treated fairly in the ag market.”
He said that hasn’t been the case. The U.S. has been mistreated by the likes of China and the European Union, which have placed unfair restrictions on U.S. agricultural exports.
Hoeven was asked if he has any sympathy for what impact the recent spate of U.S. farm aid announcements surrounding COVID-19 and the U.S./China trade war has had on Canadian farmers.
“The pasture is always greener on the other side of the fence,” he said.
Hoeven said the relationship between Canada and the U.S. couldn’t be better but Canadians tend to view trade through a distorted lens.
“We feel that other countries, including Canada, provide an awful lot of support to their producers,” said the senator from North Dakota.
Hoeven made reference to the former Canadian Wheat Board and to the lingering issue of U.S. wheat receiving discriminatory grading in Canada.
He said the U.S. dairy sector has long-standing complaints about Canada’s supply managed system.
“Our potato growers feel very disadvantaged versus potatoes coming in from your country,” said Hoeven.
He said Canadian grain farmers receive transportation subsidies for getting their product to market through the railway revenue cap.
“Our beef producers feel incredibly disadvantaged right now, not just by Canada but by a lot of countries because we’ve got a dollar that is so strong,” said Hoeven.