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Canadian farmers need NAFTA too

An eternally optimistic Canadian farmer encourages NAFTA’s chief negotiators to reach an agreement.

Jake Leguee farms roughly 12,000 acres with his family in Saskatchewan, Canada. The Leguee family grows GMO soybeans, GMO canola, wheat, durum, peas and lentils.

Leguee participated in the Global Farmer Roundtable, hosted by the Global Farmer Network, at the 2017 Borlaug Symposium in Des Moines. During the roundtable discussion, farmers from 14 countries shared challenges they face on their farms. Leguee said NAFTA negotiations have created uncertainty in Canada.

“We don’t know what the implications may be because we don’t know whether the agreement will be resigned or not,” Leguee said. “Certainly, if NAFTA is cancelled, we are looking at pretty substantial negative impacts. There’s been some analysis done that talks about the strong probability of a recession, decrease in GDP of a couple percent. All of these things are big picture items.”

In the event of an economic downturn, Canadian farmers would receive little government assistance. Leguee talks about two assistance programs available to farmers, and outlines problems with each program.

“One is administered by our province. The province ensures a level of production, based on a 10-year yield average. When we drop below 70% of the average, we see a payment. The problem with the program is it’s strictly production-based, so it has nothing to do with market conditions. Our yields are going up pretty quickly. They are a lot better than they were 10 years ago, and better than they were 5 years ago. The support threshold isn’t high enough based on an average that long,” Leguee said.

“The other support program is called AgriStability, a national program funded by the federal and provincial governments. They take a 5-year olympic average of your farm’s net contribution. But, they’re very selective about what components of your income and expense go into that. It’s a very unpredictable program that doesn’t help all that much because it’s capped a level low enough that we’re seeing some pretty substantial loss by the time we’re in a position to make a claim,” Leguee said.

Moving forward, Leguee asks NAFTA’s chief negotiators to stay cool and calm.

“Let’s get this agreement modernized,” Leguee said. “There are improvements that can be made. It’s not a bad to reopen the discussion. I think there are a lot of things that can be improved on both sides of the border. We don’t need to be in a panic about it. Let’s take our time and get it right. Maybe things can actually get better.”