Left on the desk, Oct 5: Dropping turkeys, ancient grains, and white carrots


What a week in the news for Canada and around the world. It’s hard to write about everything when the news falls like a snow squall covering your desk like an early snowfall. The purpose of this column is to get through the pile of paper that was “Left on the Desk.” This week I promise one thing in this column: nothing about U.S. judge Brett Kavanaugh.

As always, if you have any questions, comments, or thoughts on stories we’ve covered or stories we’ve missed, send me an email to [email protected]

Let’s start the Thanksgiving weekend with the most epic of Thanksgiving traditions — the famous WKRP turkey drop, a promotion that RealAg Radio should consider bringing back as long as the turkeys have parachutes, of course.

Some consumers like to reminisce about the days of old. How often do you see bread made with ancient grains or hear your aunt Mildred saying, “remember how tomatoes used to taste?” Some farmers are profiting from the market opportunity of ancient grains. Sometimes, this look to the past to find a future is more about historical lore than actual health. What about the way that carrots used to be? Legend says that carrots used to be white. Better find some ancient white carrot seed and get your farmer’s market garden ready.

There are many examples of food evolving over time through breeding, innovation and consumer demands. White carrots are just one story of intrigue. We shouldn’t ignore the impact that trade has had on the options at the grocery store. Free trade has allowed consumers to experience the variety and choice year round that would be difficult for many consumers to give up at this point.

New equipment sales in Canada have been somewhat mixed, year to date. That is likely driven by rising costs, lower commodity prices, and so much uncertainty in the market/trade. The North American auto industry has had its own share of uncertainty as of late, but the relationship between new and used is very fascinating. The price gap between new and used vehicles has increased the demand for used as consumers look for a better value deal. This week I am going to research if this same trend is happening in farm machinery.

From cars to drones. Google and the Pentagon have been trying to work together, but the relationship is complicated. According to Washington Post story, the issue is: How to retain Silicon Valley workers angered by the moral implications of developing warfare technology while also staying in the running for Washington’s lucrative military contracts. Forgive me for feeling like this is a part of the plot of the last Jason Bourne movie.

The words “free” and “trade” were removed from the new version of the North American trilateral trade deal. The USMCA not only omits the language, but also increases managed trade instead. For the purest of free traders, this new USMCA is not ideal and is against free market principles. Quite frankly free trade has been sold as a bad economic choice in the U.S., and the USMCA is further proof. Due to the promises of populism, trade agreements for the time being are about managed trade and less about free trade. In the U.S. this is definitely a shift for Republicans.

There has been lots of discussion this week on the “non-market economies” text in the new USMCA deal. What exactly are the limitations for Canada and Mexico in terms of trade with China? Does the U.S. now control Canada’s trade sovereignty with certain countries like China? The answer is unclear and will be debated in the months to come during the ratification period.

Oh and by the way, China is not happy about this clause

I am of the opinion that both sides of the China/U.S. trade war are gearing up for a long term battle that is not just about trade, but also the rules around how the world will look for generations. Both China and the United States are talking about relying on the convenient relationship between the two economic powerhouses too much. We have cycled through tariffs escalation but what comes next may be more discreet and long term.

Speaking of populism, former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has a new book on populism’s rise and how it should not be ignored.

I mentioned on RealAg Radio and Agritalk this week that it appears we are entering a period when farm subsidies will be on the rise and not being eradicated, like some world leaders have discussed.  We have a farm bill in the U.S. that is destined for conclusion in the lame duck period, a possible second wave of trade aid in the U.S., and a Canadian Prime Minister promising market compensation for dairy farmers.  If this trend is real and expands, it will have great impacts on the supply of commodities and the prices that farmers receive at the farm gate. Milk and soybeans are just two examples.

Have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy the best holiday of the year.  Cheers everyone!!

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