One of the deeply foolish subtexts of the Parliamentary debate on the Wheat Board is the assumption that without our Wheat Board the US market will open its arms to Canadian grain, and we can send grain south by truck instead of over the mountains by train and across the sea  by ship.

The Wheat Board haters seem blissfully innocent of the fact America grows mountains of its own grain and has an export subsidy program which keeps American prices up.  This is a subsidy program which Americans will not allow Canadian grain farmers to benefit from.

A little acquaintance with history is sobering.  When the Arthur Meighen Conservatives destroyed our previous Wheat Board in 1920 it took the Yanks less than six months to pass and invoke an Emergency Tariff in February of 1921 and later the Fordney Emergency Tariff Act to close their border to both Canadian grain and beef.

Could it happen today?  The short answer is yes.  The US has already instituted a “buy American” policy for their stimulus program spending which effectively sets all other trade deals aside including  NAFTA which so many seem to think gives Canada special status.

The Yanks are preparing to close their border even more, just as they did in the 1920’s.  The so called ‘perimeter trade deal’ signed a few weeks ago by Harper and their President contains provisions which foreshadow the border closure if our Wheat Board is destroyed.

For example, transhipment fees for containers from Vancouver to Seattle have been upped to $145.00 per container and US import fees for materials have increased to around 10% of the invoice value.  That makes import fees higher than they were before the NAFTA agreement was signed.  Couple that with an almost 30% increase in the value of our dollar, and exports to the United States are facing a formidable trade barrier.  The Conservatives in their zeal to destroy our Wheat Board are not watching out for all the consequences.

So those assuming they can truck their grain into the United States are living in a dream world.  The American paper work required is formidable.  When the short lived continental barley market took place under the Mulroney regime, this writer heard many reports of Canadian farmers being confronted by Americans fed up with having their prices lowered and their elevators plugged by Canadian grain.  If we lose our Board this time around Canadians may well face a more formidable and dangerous foe:  US border guards armed with fountain pens and prohibitive fee schedules.

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