Letters to the editor – April 22, 2021

China tensions cost prairie farmers

According to a recently released report from the Canola Council of Canada, worsened relations with China since the December 2018 arrest of Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou have cost prairie farmers a billion or more dollars.

During the period March 6, 2019, to July 31, 2020, the losses to Canadian canola growers are estimated at $681 million to $1.3 billion in lost sales and lower prices.

Canola is Canada’s most valuable crop. Its sales are dependent on export markets, of which China was the largest before 2019. The value of Canadian canola seed exports to China in 2018 was $2.8 billion.

After the arrest of Meng Wanzhou in December 2018, canola sales to China dropped to $800 million in 2019 and to $1.4 billion in 2020. The area planted to canola in 2019 was about 21 million acres, so the lost revenues from canola sales to China equate to $32.40-$61.90 per acre, a significant loss.

Clearly, China’s decision to find alternatives to Canadian canola was a reaction to the Trudeau/Freeland government’s detention of Ms. Wanzhou. In this case, the economic interests of Canadian farmers were sacrificed to appease the U.S. government.

It should be noted that by provoking a Chinese response against Canada, the Americans achieved two objectives:

  • Severely damaging Canada-China diplomatic relations.
  • Creating a market opportunity for American soybeans, which China purchased to replace Canadian canola.

By playing to the American tune, the Government of Canada acted against the interests of its own citizens. This shows that a foreign policy of subservience to Washington is often contrary to Canadian national interests.

This can be contrasted to the policies of the Diefenbaker government in the late 1950s and early 1960s. At that time, Canada was among the first western countries to establish commercial relations with the People’s Republic of China by selling Canadian wheat. The Canadian Wheat Board arranged the sale of wheat to China on condition of a $100 million line of credit from the Government of Canada.

How times have changed. From being a leader in opening relations with the PRC, Canada has become a leader in destroying them. Servility to American diktat has a price. It is high time for Canada to adopt an independent foreign policy free from the “rules” set down by Washington.

David Gehl,

Indian Head, Sask.

Past practices must be recognized

Dear Saskatchewan agriculture minister David Marit.

I write this letter mostly out of frustration with your failure to represent every farmer in Saskatchewan — big or small.

As you are aware by now, it has been publicly stated that no-till farmers will be excluded from any provincial or national carbon offset program.

Your job is to represent farmers in your best capacity at the cabinet table as well as nationally and internationally.

Why would you abrogate your responsibility on the carbon offset file when the science is sound on farmers’ contributions to reducing greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide? For many years, farmers have been practising sound environmental farming practices that have gone unnoticed.

These practices include reduced engine hours per acre with autosteer and direct seeding along with larger equipment. It includes developing rotational strategies that further reduce environmental issues. It includes equipment with reduced engine emissions. It also includes a major investment through checkoffs in agronomics and varietal development. All totalled, over the last 30 years reductions have been done at the farmers’ expense.

It is disappointing that an opportunity to recapture that investment through a carbon offset program is not promoted or has the support of our provincial agriculture minister.

Why have you not been in discussions with the provincial and federal environment ministers on farmers’ behalf? This is unacceptable, considering the numerous letters from the major farm groups keeping you up to date with their lobbying of the federal program that have been sent to your office.

Why is there no public comment on the exclusion of Saskatchewan farmers to a carbon offset program?

As a farmer, I find your lack of engagement on this not only disappointing but a failure to farmers and the farming community as a whole. It is definitely bordering on incompetence, especially when you stood at the back of the room in Saskatoon at the Saskpulse annual general meeting in January of 2020 and saw unanimous support for the carbon resolution that was presented and that was asked for again in all the 2021 sector AGMs this past January.

No other industry contributes to the provincial economy like agriculture and has been ignored like this. Agriculture, mainly farmers, contribute to the base load of the economy, but your promotion of the federal Liberal plan leaves farmers being less competitive in the world for production with carbon taxes and no way to offset those costs.

I look forward to a reply regarding your failings to all farmers of Saskatchewan.

Dave Marzolf,

Central Butte, Sask.

Port of Vancouver tenants frustrated

Re: April 8, 2021, op ed by Robin Silvester — “Port of Vancouver serves producers.”

The six member companies of the Western Grain Elevators Association (Cargill, G3, Paterson GlobalFoods, Parrish & Heimbecker, Richardson International and Viterra) ship over 90 percent of Canada’s bulk grain exports. These companies, alongside tens of thousands of farmer customers, are responsible for the impressive results and investments in the Port of Vancouver quoted in this article.

Canada’s grain sector continues to be extremely frustrated with the lack of information-sharing that its landlord, the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, continues to demonstrate.

The industry has requested appropriate accountability of the port, not only with respect to funds already extracted from industry for infrastructure projects completed, but transparency on requested industry contributions for additional projects currently in progress to ensure fairness for industry participants.

It is important to note that, although the port manages these infrastructure projects, 90 percent of the port’s contributions are paid for by port tenants.

Instead of responding favourably to the WGEA’s and tenants’ direct requests for transparency, it chooses to speak around the industry through podcasts and news outlets like The Western Producer. This is one example on a long list of port-related issues that concerns the WGEA members, and why we are advocating for change to port governance.

Wade Sobkowich, executive director

Western Grain Elevator Association

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