Trump inspires U.S. farm groups to pile on Canada

WINNIPEG (Reuters) — U.S. President Donald Trump’s criticism of the protected Canadian dairy system has emboldened American farm groups to tackle other longstanding agriculture irritants as the countries move toward rewriting trade rules.

U.S. poultry and egg exporters are expected to seek greater access to Canada’s tightly controlled market in renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The United States, which is the world’s second-biggest chicken exporter, will demand market access gains at least equal to those they would have realized under the failed Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, industry groups and experts say.

U.S. farmers also want changes to Canadian grain laws that automatically assign the lowest price for their wheat.

“Anybody who has an issue with Canada, this is the time to bring it up now,” said Dan Ujczo, an international trade lawyer with the U.S.-based law firm Dickinson Wright.

“The dairy issue certainly signalled that.”

Trump last month took a swipe at Canada’s dairy system, which prevents large-scale imports through steep tariffs, and moved to impose tariffs on Canadian lumber.

U.S. farm groups with grievances took note.

“It’s unfair for the dairy industry but it’s unfair for poultry and eggs as well,” said Jim Sumner, president of the U.S. Poultry & Egg Export Council who plans to make that point with the U.S. administration.

Canada allows tariff-free egg imports amounting to 2.98 percent of Canadian production and chicken imports worth 7.5 percent. Imports would have doubled for eggs and jumped by more than one-quarter for chicken under TPP.

“I’d be surprised if (the U.S.) starting point was anything less,” said Ontario egg producer Roger Pelissero, chair of Egg Farmers of Canada.

Meanwhile, in the northern U.S. Plains, farmers aim to use NAFTA renegotiations to open wheat sales opportunities.

Under Canadian legislation, U.S. wheat sellers who have not negotiated a price based on their wheat’s specifications automatically receive the lowest quality grade and price in Canada, while Canadian wheat commands the price accorded to its quality in the U.S..

The result is that U.S. farms near the border have no reason to truck grain to Canadian companies that may be closer, while plenty of Canadian wheat flows south to American delivery points, said Alan Merrill, president of the Montana Farmers Union.

“It’s just solid (lineups of) Canadian trucks, coming down with grain,” said Merrill.

The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association has urged Ottawa to change the law to make cross-border wheat trade more fair and avoid a trade dispute.

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