Sask. Trade Minister Urges Federal Counterpart on Canola

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Minister Jeremy Harrison said he had underlined the “urgency” of a decision on cash advances for canola growers during a visit to Ottawa this week

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Saskatchewan’s trade minister underlined the “urgency” to act on the canola file during a visit to Ottawa on Tuesday, saying he was concerned the federal government has yet made a commitment to expand support for the canola issue. farmers.

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Jeremy Harrison said he reminded Federal Trade Minister Jim Carr how “vitally important” the Chinese market is to Saskatchewan canola growers and to Canada as a whole. It has been more than a month since shipments began to be excluded from China, the destination of $ 1.4 billion of the province’s canola exports in 2017.

“This is our biggest export market for canola, not just a little bit – by order of magnitude,” Harrison said. “That is why it has to be raised to the level of a very important national effort.”

In the meantime, farmers need to know if they are receiving any support as they prepare to plant this year’s crop. Harrison said he stressed the need for a quick response on the changes Saskatchewan has proposed to the federal advance payment program, which offers up to $ 100,000 in interest-free credit to eligible farmers.

It has been almost two weeks since the Minister of Agriculture for Saskatchewan proposed to increase this cap to $ 1 million. This would help alleviate cash flow pressures so farmers don’t have to sell last year’s canola at declining prices to fund inputs this year, he said.

From what Harrison said, it was clear Saskatchewan is getting impatient.

“I stressed to Minister Carr that they had to make a decision immediately,” said Harrison, recounting his exchange on Tuesday.

Keith Fournier, a Lloydminster area farmer and director of SaskCanola, agreed that China’s canola crackdown is becoming urgent for farmers.

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“Everyone’s situation is different, but I think that by the end of May, the people who deliver inputs like fertilizer and seeds to us will want to be paid for it,” Fournier said.

This could force farmers to sell their canola at a loss or take out bank loans and have their income eaten away by interest payments. The proposed increases in cash advance ceilings could help them avoid these unpleasant choices, he suggested.

Fournier said he understands things don’t always happen quickly in Ottawa, but he said it needs to “make this a priority.”

Harrison said it seemed Carr understood how urgent the issue was for farmers. He said he had not heard of “pushback”. But Carr did not commit to cash advances during the talks, according to Harrison.

“He assured me that it was under consideration as a priority,” he said.

Harrison also reiterated the importance of technical talks with China, who cited “dangerous parasites” to justify blocking shipments from Richardson International and Viterra Inc. He said he saw “no basis” for these concerns.

Canola grows in a field about 20 kilometers south of Regina.
Canola grows in a field about 20 kilometers south of Regina. Photo by Brandon Harder /Regina Chief Position

He said he had discussed the need for a plan to “elevate” talks with the Chinese, telling Carr that it might be necessary to plan higher-level talks.

“We hope to get a response from the Chinese in the next few days regarding the scientific commitment. But if it is clear that the Chinese do not want or cannot engage at the scientific level, it must be immediately raised to the political level, ”he said.

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He said this meant “direct engagement” between federal ministers and their Chinese counterparts, including between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Harrison said the federal government should also work with its allies in the Asia-Pacific region.

“We need to fix this problem, and it is the responsibility of the Government of Canada to defend our interests,” said Harrison.

“I’ve said all along that when I felt they weren’t working in our best interests, we would be very blunt in saying so. We will continue to work with them, but we are getting to this point that concerns me a lot.

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