Border closure likely to leave most commerce unscathed

COVID-19: Essential movements will continue, and industry hopes that includes inputs like fertilizer

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to media outside his Ottawa home, March 16, 2020.

Canada and the United States have mutually agreed to close their shared border to non-essential travel, a move the Canadian government has been hinting at since Monday.

United States President President Donald Trump tweeted the news Wednesday saying “trade will not be affected.”

On March 16 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and several of his ministers hinted at a tightening of the border, but stressed the essential movement of such things as food and medications must continue.

“We recognize the integration of our two countries and that demands a certain level of co-ordination over next steps and that is what is happening,” Trudeau, who is self-isolating after being exposed to COVID-19 by his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, told reporters outside his home in Ottawa, March 16.

“We will not rule out anything to keep Canadians safe,” Trudeau said when pressed to explain why he was restricting foreign access to Canada, but making an exception for Americans.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters later exceptions were necessary.

“We have understood just because of the way that Canada-U.S. border, in particular, is a life-line for both countries that there do need to be some carves outs to that strong recommendation for essential workers — people like the truck drivers who are driving trucks of food in both directions across the border… like air crews,” she said. “There are other categories of essential workers as well and that is a situation, which we are closely and continuously reviewing.”

The question now is, what’s essential?

Food has been mentioned so presumably that includes livestock and meat, which flows both ways.

Fertilizer Canada says fertilizer is essential to global food production and should move freely between Canada and the U.S.

“This movement must continue, allowing farmers to position product for the beginning of the planting season in late April and early May and ensure additional quantities are available for replenishment throughout the entire planting season,” Fertilizer Canada said in a news release March 17.

“The Canadian supply chain is resilient and can manage through these challenges. Our industry would be concerned about any restrictive measures that may have unintended consequences on rail, port and truck service, imports or operations at agri-retail. Governments must ensure that the Canadian border remains open to the movement of fertilizer in order for farmers to receive their product and meet their spring seeding requirements.”

Speaking Wednesday morning Trudeau had few details, but it appears commercial travel will be largely unaffected.

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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