Agriculture is key to the post-pandemic revival, says farm group

The sector can help restart Canada’s economy but Ottawa needs to do its part, says Grain Growers of Canada

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Glacier FarmMedia – Agriculture can help revitalize Canada’s post-COVID economy, but the federal government should clear the track for it.

That means updating regulations to encourage technological innovation, improving market access for agricultural exports and recognizing farm practices that help the environment, says the Grain Growers of Canada.

That was the message the farm group recently took to Ottawa as part of its post-harvest lobby effort, said Erin Gowriluk, executive director of the organization, which represents 15 regional, provincial and national grain farmer groups.

“Our theme is ‘Growing Back Better’ and we’re building on the government plan to build back better,” she said. “That’s really about what Canadian farmers need to position the sector as one that is really going to contribute to the post-pandemic economic recovery.”

Canadian farmers rely heavily on exports, but there are no exports without access to international markets. The Canadian government has focused on negotiating and ratifying new trade agreements.

Andre Harpe from Valhalla Centre is one of the farmers in a new Grain Growers of Canada video, part of a campaign to put agriculture in the forefront of Canada’s efforts to grow the economy in the wake of the pandemic.
photo: Grain Growers of Canada/CropLife Canada (video screengrab)

“We are actually calling on the government for a policy pivot with respect to international trade,” Gowriluk said.

“Let’s implement and enforce those trade deals. And then let’s look very closely at the market access challenges we’re having in India and China where we don’t have free trade agreements, but we do need more government support.”

Part of that lobbying effort is also reaching out to a wider audience through a new video, produced with CropLife Canada, entitled Today’s Modern Grain Farm: A Harvest Across Canada.

The video features farmers from across the country, including Andre Harpe, who farms near Valhalla Centre.

In the video, the producers talk about how they care for the land and are family operations, even though most are incorporated. They also talk about how they use herbicides and pesticides responsibly — with Harpe concluding the video on a personal note.

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“I buy my food at the same place everybody else does — I go to the grocery store,” says Harpe. “I guess what I’d like everybody to know is that we want to grow the safest product and the best product possible because we’re buying the same end product.”

The video also addresses trade, particularly China’s move to restrict canola purchases after Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in December 2018 at the U.S. government’s behest.

“Certainly China banning exports of canola has hurt us,” Saskatchewan farmer Paul Thoroughgood says in the video.

“It probably knocked 50 cents to a dollar off the price, which immediately hits your bottom line.”

China’s trade action “keeps me up at night, that’s how concerned I am about it,” adds Saskatchewan farmer Cherilyn Jolly-Nagel.

Canada needs to diversify its markets, she said.

The 20-minute video also has a section called ‘Grain farming explained in 90 seconds,’ in which Thoroughgood explains the process of grain growing from seeding to harvest.

The video can be found at YouTube (by searching for ‘today’s modern grain farm’) or by going to the Grain Growers of Canada website.

This article was originally published at the Manitoba Co-operator.

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