Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I do thank all committee members for inviting the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association to this discussion on the critical matter of trade in North America.
Going back to what you said, I would have liked to join you in person, but we're seeding canola and lentils here right now, just west of Regina, so I hopped off the tractor and came in right here, right now. It's good to have a little break anyway. Thank you very much.
Founded in 1970, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association is a voluntary farmer-run advocacy organization dedicated to developing public policy solutions that strengthen the profitability and sustainability of farming in the agriculture industry as a whole.
Without going into a variety of stats, which I believe Brian covered very eloquently and which everyone is fairly aware of, the bottom line for us and for western grain farmers is that trade and market access are absolutely essential, especially with the United States and Mexico.
In North America, and specifically in the crop sector, we're sending more and more of our products south as Canadian and U.S. markets continue to grow individually—but also, as a result, to become more integrated.
As we work to become more integrated in our markets, which we western farmers think is a really good thing, our growers and industry colleagues in the agriculture value chain continue to work closely together on both sides of the border. In my mind, this provides a great example or template of sorts of how we can improve and modernize NAFTA in a renegotiation of the trade deal, which would improve the flow of trade, not just specifically for agriculture but for our country as a whole.
Our counterparts in the United States, the U.S. Wheat Associates and the National Association of Wheat Growers, recently said “there are several elements of the trade agreement that could be re-examined and modernized. However, we believe withdrawing from NAFTA would be a serious mistake.” We agree with their position.
The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association, in fact, wrote a joint op-ed in February with the U.S. Wheat Associates, in which we highlighted specifically how we could improve trade. I would like to talk to you today about one concrete example, which I'll summarize.
Currently, Canadian farmers delivering wheat into the U.S. receive equitable treatment with grain grown south of the border. However, because of legislation and regulations that have existed for years before the changes to the Canadian Wheat Board came to western Canada, U.S. producers who currently deliver into Canadian markets automatically receive the lowest grade, regardless of quality or variety of grain, even if the variety is currently registered here in Canada.
Our organizations have been working together to urge the House of Commons to address open, cross-border wheat trade, and we support updating the Canada Grain Act to ensure that wheat is treated consistently on both sides of the border. As a farmer, I want access to the most competitive wheat markets, but it's often not the case for U.S. farmers living near the Canadian border.
This inequity has started to create significant concerns in both the Canadian and the U.S. industries, especially given the potential of renegotiating NAFTA. A free flow of grain in both directions will improve the efficiency of our grain handling system and eliminate artificial price distortions that frustrate farmers and have caused 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 in Canada and the U.S. strongly support co-operating to ensure an open market. Last year we also worked together to recommend that the Canada-United States Regulatory Cooperation Council and the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region Foundation, whom you had here this week, work to address this trade disparity. We hope that the work on this subject in the House of Commons can result in a 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.
Two weeks ago, the Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association asked the Government of Canada to take action to harmonize regulations and to ensure the free flow of wheat between Canada and the U.S., as we're growing concerned about the open wheat market and cross-border trade with the U.S. with the prospect of the renegotiation of NAFTA.
A U.S. senator moved a resolution last month with respect to “supporting fair and equitable grading treatment for exports of United States wheat products to Canada”, which has now been referred to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance. If not remedied, the action suggested in the resolution would potentially have very devastating effects on our industry, especially to wheat farmers and the whole ag sector. We see this as an area for greater harmonization in a renegotiation. It’s very timely that this has come up now.
Western farmers have a good news story to tell. We’re innovative and entrepreneurial, we're helping create jobs throughout the value chain, and are growing the Canadian economy. Open markets and freer trade are absolutely essential for us to continue going down this road in the agrifood sector.
I thank you again for the opportunity to be here and for allowing me to speak with you. I look forward to entertaining any questions you might have.