Letter to the Prime Minister

by Ghislain Gervais - président

The excitement about the season’s first tractor ride didn’t last long, besides we had to wait a few weeks before finally, and very quickly, getting the sowing done. As I waited for more clement weather, I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister of Canada on your behalf and this is the gist of it:

Canada is about to begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with the United States of America and Mexico. Although we are pleased that these negotiations aren’t a concern for you according to what we read in the media last March, you must realize that they are a significant topic of apprehension for the country’s agricultural producers and the agri-food industry.

There is indeed reason to be worried if we compare the players involved on both ends of the border. The size of U.S. farms, the billions of dollars paid to subsidize their operations and their operating methods defy the imagination. This, on its own, would be enough to justify our concern.

However, that's not the purpose of our discussion today.

Agriculture is an important economic activity in Canada. But it is first and foremost a profoundly human activity; it is the story of men and women who, generation after generation, have worked hard to ensure access to high quality products for their communities. In fact, our farmers were engaged in an economy of proximity long before the expression became fashionable.

Canada’s agriculture is also a unique way to perceive our country. Through its strength and innovation our sector asserts itself as part of our collective identity, as a reflection of our values, and the respect we bring to family, territory and the environment.

Our farmers are modernizing their practices every day, using technologies that are increasingly performing and eco-friendly, diversifying their product offerings and participate in our global outreach. They show the relevance of a business model, that of supply management, that allows agricultural producers, processers and consumers to find what they’re looking for while ensuring everyone’s food security.

This is also the business model that lets our farmers make a decent living despite a climatic context that represents a significant burden to their production costs and the presence of agri-economic predators that dream of further expanding their profits by infiltrating our farms and our supermarkets regardless of the damages they would have on our regional economies.

Canada was born of the determination and energy of pioneers who wanted to build a better world with a respect for profoundly human values such as honesty, mutual assistance, solidarity and fairness – values that are deeply rooted in La Coop fédérée’s members. And the history of these pioneers has been incredibly successful, even up to this day, without having to yield to the demands of the lords of economic liberalism.

In 1994, several countries agreed to afford culture special consideration within the framework of certain wide-ranging international treaties. This was referred to as a ‘’cultural exception’’ and was intended to be a countermeasure to the omnipresence of American culture around the world.

We are asking you to make an ‘’agricultural exception’’ to continue to encourage the development of our fellow citizens and their businesses, and to allow them to feed Canada day after day. Furthermore, to guarantee Canadians that the food they buy and enjoy respects our values as well as the quality and safety standards to which they are entitled.

The political and economic choices that Canada is about to make on the free trade altar will have repercussions for many generations to come. That is why our agriculture cannot be likened to a simple bargaining chip.

Enjoy the summer!