Thank you very much for giving us the opportunity to make our presentation here today.
My name is Paul Slomp, and I'm the youth vice-president of the National Farmers Union. I'm also a beef producer. I farm beef cattle just south of Ottawa.
The National Farmers Union is a non-partisan nationwide democratic organization made up of thousands of farm families from across Canada, who produce a wide variety of commodities, including grains, livestock, fruits, and vegetables. The NFU was founded in 1969 and chartered in 1970 under a special act of Parliament.
The NFU is a member of Food Secure Canada, the national network that works for zero hunger and for healthy and sustainably produced food in Canada. Recently Food Secure Canada produced Resetting the Table: A People's Food Policy for Canada. That has been shared with this committee.
The NFU supports trade in agriculture as long as it is fair trade, it supports the livelihoods of family farmers in Canada and those of our trading partners around the world, and it ensures each country has the capacity to feed itself.
The National Farmers Union has monitored the impacts of Canada's increasingly trade-dependent agricultural policy for over 20 years. We have observed that while trade has increased dramatically, so too has farm debt. At the same time, realized net farm income has remained stagnant at a very low level, in some years even dropping below zero. Furthermore, the number of farms and farmers in Canada has steadily dropped, most dramatically those farmers under the age of 35. In the last 20 years, Canada has lost 69% of its farmers under the age of 35.
The expansion of trade in Canada's agricultural sector has not benefited farmers. Furthermore, yesterday the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food reported that Canada's food and agricultural policies are not even adequate to feed our own people properly.
In our presentation today, we would like to point out some key areas of the proposed economic partnership agreement with Japan that will result in further losses of farmers and a reduction in Canada's ability to realize the right to food for all of our people.
The comprehensive and high-level economic partnership agreement with Japan, like NAFTA, and the comprehensive economic and trade agreement go far beyond matters of trade between countries. They set up rules that on the one hand limit the ability of elected governments to make laws and regulations in the public interest, and on the other hand provide for protection and privilege of global businesses, which are not citizens of any country, even if they claim the legal rights of persons under the law. The advantages gained by these companies are matched by the losses imposed on individuals, small businesses, and local or regional companies in countries on both sides of the trade agreement.
If the trend of comprehensive economic partnership continues, national governments will be rendered virtually impotent, unable to protect their voters, their public sector, or their independent businesses. It is stated in the report of the joint study that if this EPA is expected to build momentum towards the realization of a free trade agreement with Asia Pacific, the intermediate step would be the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or the TPP, which could cause Canada to abandon our supply-managed system in order to acquiesce to New Zealand demands.
The NFU strongly supports supply management. These sectors of Canada's agricultural system represent one area in which farmers are making a decent livelihood and do not require support payments, and one where consumers can be confident that the products they are buying are produced in Canada, to Canadian standards.
The joint study suggests that an EPA will result in dramatic economic growth for both Canada and Japan. When we review the impact of Canadian trade expansion policies to date on farmers, we see a clear pattern of loss in the number of farmers and a concentration of production in fewer, larger units. We also note that these largest farms are also the ones that have benefited the most from our safety net programs.
The joint study indicates that the proposed EPA would guarantee considerable freedom to capital, by allowing capital to go where it wants, to stay as long as it wants, and to sue governments that attempt to regulate it in the public interest. Global corporations are becoming extremely wealthy and powerful. The imbalance between these companies and farmers is severe.
The investor-state dispute resolution mechanism allows a company to sue a government if it passes a law or implements a regulation that effects that company's profit-making ability. This curtails the ability of duly elected legislators to carry out their duty to the public.
We are also concerned that because Japan has adopted the UPOV 91, the plant breeders' rights regime, there might be pressure on Canada to adopt UPOV 91 as a harmonization process. This would severely restrict farm-saved seed practices and dramatically increase seed costs for farmers. Currently, patents are being used in Canada to allow global seed corporations to charge high prices. As a result, patented canola seed costs have increased dramatically. Farmers are now paying $600 per bushel for seed, yet that same farmer sells his or her crop for only $13 a bushel. Under UPOV 91, such lopsided pricing situations would also occur with non-patented seed varieties covered by plant breeders' rights.
The joint study mentions intellectual property rights enforcement as one of the areas to be included. We are concerned that such measures would unfairly affect farmers, in light of the 2004 Supreme Court Schmeiser decision that declared a farmer to be infringing on patent rights no matter how the patented genes were introduced into the crop. Genes are transferred by wind and insect pollination, and weeds are often spilled from trucks and railcars along roads and railways. Pedigreed non-GMO seed stocks have been documented to contain GMO seed contamination.
This EPA would include public procurement measures that, like CETA, reach into sub-national governments. This would impinge on the ability of provincial and local governments and schools and hospitals to adopt a local food procurement policy.
With the destruction of the Canadian Wheat Board as our farmer controlled marketing agency for wheat and barley exports, access to Canadian grains supplies is something that Japanese companies are interested in as they seek to expand and consolidate their control over Asian food markets. I can expand on this in the discussion.
Currently Canada's top agricultural exports into Japan are beef, pork, canola, and soy. Under the proposed EPA, it appears that sellers of these commodities would seek even more access to the Japanese market. The bulk of Canada's canola and soy crops are genetically modified, yet Japanese consumers are very averse to GMOs. Japan has strict labelling regulations, and there is virtually no consumer demand for food made from genetically modified crops.
Canada's beef and pork processing sectors are highly concentrated, with about 80% of beef being packed by Cargill and Excel Foods, and about 70% of pork being packed by Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods. I would like to point out that these interests are being represented by my fellow witness here today.
An NFU study shows that beef prices for farmers are kept artificially low because the packers own vast feedlot herds, allowing them to manipulate prices. In pork, Canada has lost thousands of farmers since NAFTA was signed. Many of those remaining must contract their production to one of the two big packers and take the price that is offered. The beneficiaries of increased exports of beef and pork are the four big meat-packing companies, not farmers.
Japan has very strict rules around food safety regarding mad cow disease in beef. Canada's record in dealing with mad cow is poor. As long as the current system is in place, Japan is unlikely to change its age-specific rules.
We would also like to emphasize that trade between Canada and Japan will continue, regardless of whether or not a proposed bilateral agreement is made. Both countries are members of the World Trade Organization, which can also be used to resolve international trade disputes if they arise.
The ultimate goal of this EPA is the complete penetration of global corporations into every facet of economic life. In the process, the culture of farming and food will be transformed by the imperatives of corporate efficiency and profitability. We believe that international relations must be based on mutual respect for the whole of each society, that trade can be conducted fairly, without destroying the cultural and economic institutions people have built, and that democracy means that people have a real say in the economic choices that affect their lives.
We also suggest that Canada needs a national food policy and that international trade should be a component of that policy.
Thank you very much.