Obama + agriculture + Canada = ?
Now that America has it’s new President-elect in Senator Barack Obama, what does that mean for farmers? That’s a big question not only for farmers on either side of the Canada – US border, but also around the world.
Although I did follow the US election fairly regularly, I didn’t pay as much attention to the candidates’ agricultural platforms as I did to other aspects of the campaign. As far as farming went, I was more focused on what was going on with the Canadian election earlier this fall.
So in an effort to get caught up and hopefully also formulate an opinion – and maybe even speculate on what lies ahead as so many writers are wont to do – I turned to the Internet to see what others are saying. And there seems no shortage of viewpoints.
My Canadian colleague Owen Roberts from the University of Guelph predicts big changes for farmers down south in a posting on his blog, Urban Cowboy, on this very subject. But, he says, those changes related to Obama’s support of family farms and biofuels and his plan to cap US farm subsidy payments will affect Canadian farmers too, predicting that the US will move to apply their same new standards to farm imports. And Canada is America’s largest agricultural trading partner, so there is no doubt the impact will be felt up here, some way, some how.
Australian farmers feel a McCain victory would have been better for them than Obama’s historic result, according to an article on the Farm Weekly website, an Australian agricultural publication. The Australian National Farmers Federation is worried about Obama’s commitment to extending support for the biofuels industry and about increasing US protectionism. The comments below the article show differing points of view, although it’s difficult to tell how many – if any – of them were posted by farmers.
British blogger Wyn Grant, self-styled expert on the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), also forsees dark days for international agricultural trade under Obama. He predicts a strengthening of protectionist policy in the US, which will make a settlement of the Doha round of World Trade Organization less likely and therefore, less pressure on the EU to reform it’s CAP system. CAP is a complex system of agricultural subsidies and programs for EU member countries that many insist give European farmers unfair advantages over those who farm in countries without subsidies.
An article on the Agriculture Online site quotes American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman saying it will be easier to work with an Obama administration instead of one headed by John McCain. Obama has a history of supporting pro-ethanol and pre-renewable fuel policies, whereas McCain had repeatedly stated he would end farmer subsidies for ethanol production. The American Farm Bureau is the largest national farm group in the US with chapters in all 50 states.
I’m not sure if that puts me any further ahead in forming my own opinion other than to realize that it’s all just speculation at this point. No one knows with any certainty how this will all play out and although agriculture is important, I’m sure Obama’s first order of business will be to tackle America’s monumental economic mess.
What happens in the US is vitally important to Canadian agriculture, and we definitely need to be aware and informed of what happens in Washington. But farmers here may be better served in the here and now by directing their focus to working with Canada’s new/old agriculture minister Gerry Ritz as the newly elected Canadian parliament gets back to business in Ottawa.