IN HIS official response Monday to a tentative deal between this country and its two southern trading partners, Premier Doug Ford made sure to give a special nod to Ontario farmers.
For a city slicker, Ford is popular with many growers, as was evidenced at last month’s annual southwestern Ontario plowing match, where he was treated like a rock star.
It remains to be seen how dairy farmers in particular will fare out under the proposed United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), given the expectation it will increase the percentage of American milk and cheese coming into the Canadian market.
Ford said he’s got Ontario farmers’ backs.
“I remain concerned about the impact of Canada’s reported concessions on Class 7 (industrial) milk, and access to Ontario’s dairy market could have on our agriculture sector,” Ford said in Monday’s statement.
Ford’s concerns probably won’t matter a hay bale to U.S. President Donald Trump, who throughout the prolonged negotiations to tweak NAFTA pretty much equated Canadian dairy operators with Public Enemy No. 1.
If the USMCA is approved by all three participating governments, the finer points of the agreement may well be lost on most of us. It’s pretty heady stuff, maybe even for a tough customer like Trump.
But as average consumers, we can be as savvy and hard-nosed as a Washington-based lobbyist.
If it’s worthwhile having a local milk and egg industry, and we would argue that it is, then by all means, we need to support local producers. American farmers may soon be able to export some of their milk into Canada tariff-free; but that doesn’t mean we should rush to buy any of Uncle Sam’s moo-juice, even if doing so might save us a dime or two.
Canadian producers can’t grow oranges, at least not on a commercial scale; likewise, Texan farmers don’t harvest maple syrup (not that we know of). And there are many parts of the world where canola isn’t produced as good and as plentiful as it is in Saskatchewan.
International trade makes a lot of sense, especially when it results in getting nutritious food to parts of the world that would otherwise go without. (What frost-bitten Canadian hasn’t tried to combat a January cold with a glass of orange juice?) But that shouldn’t prevent us from educating ourselves about where our next meal comes from.
Food for thought: “From dawn to dusk and long into the night during harvest, Ontario farming and agriculture helps to feed 14 million Ontarians, and employ nearly 800,000 workers,” Ontario NDP’s noted this week.
Trump is more likely to be found steering a golf cart than a shopping buggy. But most of us mere mortals go up and down supermarket aisles every Saturday. If we don’t see Ontario-produced milk, cheese and eggs on the shelves, the least we can do is to tell store managers that we might take our business elsewhere.
Not every hard negotiation has to take place in Washington.