Even after political uncertainty in the US, opportunity exists for Canadian agriculture

  • National Newswatch

The counting of ballots continues. It has been an anxious couple of days not only for political junkies around the world, but also for Canadian farmers and agri-businesses, who are closely following the results to see what it might mean for their bottom line. Uncertainty in the US has the potential to wreak havoc on the exchange rate and international commodity markets, which could have a direct impact on Canadian agriculture.The Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute was able to get a bit of a sneak peek at what either a new Administration or Trump Administration could mean for US agriculture, and the possible consequences for Canada. In a recent dialogue hosted by our colleagues at the US Farm Foundation, Sam Clovis, a member of the Farmers and Ranchers for Trump Campaign Coalition and Pam Johnson, a former president of the National Corn Growers Association and advisor to the Biden campaign, shared their thoughts on the possible path forward.What is striking to note is that with all the talk about political divisions in the US, this discussion showed how much common ground exists between the two parties on farm and food policy. However, it is also striking to see how US agriculture is increasingly adopting positions that could negatively impact Canada. So, what does it all mean?When it comes to international trade, Biden campaign advisor Johnson was much more supportive of the WTO and multilateral trade than the Trump administration has been, including reinstituting the Appellate Body, though neither party looks set to rush to a return to orderly international trade. An “America first” approach to managing China and other trade issues will likely continue under either party.With the Republicans doing better than expected in House and Senate races, the House, Senate and Administration could also be significantly divided. Given much of the shift in vote has, to date, been coming from suburban and ex-urban communities, it also remains to be seen what voice rural, agricultural communities will have at the table as a new, or re-elected, administration sets its policy agenda going forward.Something that CAPI is also watching closely is what will happen when Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) expires next summer. TPA is essential to enabling an Administration's trade agenda, and renewing it will be an important step if a Biden Administration plans to re-engage in bilateral and multilateral trade negotiations. However, if the two sides of Congress are divided, or if the internal divide amongst Democrats increases, there is a likelihood that TPA will not be renewed promptly. The lack of TPA will likely result in the US not advancing its trade negotiations in Asia and Europe.This could present the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector with an opportunity to better leverage its first-mover advantage secured in agreements, including CPTPP and CETA. Europe and Japan are two major markets where Canada could have a significant competitive advantage over the US in key export commodities and food products. However, we can only take full advantage of those opportunities if Canada takes a more strategic trade approach.CAPI has already laid out our three recommendations for how to do this, and while the government and industry's initial responses have been positive, more work needs to be done.If the Democrats end up controlling the White House, Senate and House, there will almost certainly be a renewed focus on climate change and measures to promote sustainable and green agriculture. We believe that a renewed US focus on the green economy is just one more reason why there is significant potential for Canadian agriculture and food if it embraces green growth.Governments and industry need to better understand the opportunities that come with a green economy, and to focus more on Canadian agriculture's potential to increase carbon drawdown, and to become one of the world's leading sustainable producers. CAPI's work on agriculture as a climate change solutions provider offers numerous  examples of how agriculture can positively contribute to tackling climate change and sustainability.Whether in hours, days, or weeks, the political uncertainty in the United States will soon be resolved. Regardless of the outcome, it seems clear that the foreseeable future will offer considerable opportunities for Canadian agriculture and agri-food to play an augmented, constructive role. Our challenge is to be ready to capitalize on this evolving landscape, and to demonstrate the flexibility, resiliency, and commitment to excellence for which our sector is known worldwide.Tyler McCann is Chief Engagement Officer for the Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute. The Ottawa based Institute pushes the envelope on solutions to the critical issues facing the agri-food sector. CAPI conducts ground breaking research, connects people with ideas, and with each other, and drives the conversation forward to help government and industry make decisions today that will respond to the forces driving agriculture tomorrow.