Since the end of the Canadian Wheat Board’s government monopoly control over the marketing of western Canadian wheat, there has been a great deal of change in the Canadian wheat industry and positive modernization of many regulations. One of the most significant changes to come from marketing freedom for wheat farmers has been the growth in sales of Canadian wheat into the U.S. market.
Currently, Canadian farmers delivering wheat into the U.S. receive equitable treatment with grain grown south of the border. However, because of legislation and regulation that existed for years before the marketing freedom changes came to Western Canada, U.S. producers who currently deliver wheat into Canada automatically receive the lowest grade, regardless of the quality or variety of grain, even if the variety is registered in Canada.
Our organizations, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and U.S. Wheat Associates, have been working together to urge the House of Commons to address open, cross-border wheat trade, and we support updating the law to ensure wheat is treated consistently on both sides of the border.
As farmers, we want access to the most competitive wheat markets, but this often is not the case for U.S. wheat farmers near the Canadian border. Some of these farmers live closer to a Canadian grain elevator than an American one but cannot take advantage of selling their wheat into the bulk grain-handling system in Canada, and the Canadian marketing system cannot access these U.S. supplies.
In a typical production year, USDA NASS estimates show that over three million metric tons of wheat are produced in the U.S. within 50 miles of a Canadian elevator.
This inequity has created significant concerns in the Canadian and U.S. wheat industries, especially given the potential of reopening the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A free flow of grain in both directions will improve the efficiency of the grain-handling systems in both countries and eliminate artificial price distortions that frustrate farmers and can cause ill will.
Grain producers in both countries have worked hard to maintain a good relationship and these ongoing concerns need to be addressed to prevent any future trade restrictions, which would be bad news for farmers and industry on both sides of the border.
Our organizations and farmers on both sides of the border strongly support co-operating to ensure an open market. Last year, we also worked together to recommend that the Regulatory Cooperation Council and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region work to address this trade disparity.
We hope that work on this subject in the House of Commons can result in free and equitable wheat trade across the Canada-U.S. border. That would be good news for grain growers, the wheat value chain, and consumers in both countries.
Levi Wood is president of the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association and is a wheat farmer in Saskatchewan. Jason Scott is chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates and is a wheat farmer in Maryland.