Escalating Battle

The campaign to undermine Prairie farmers’ ability to compete in a global market is, in our opinion, escalating. And, sadly, we think that the Blitzkrieg tactics are only a prelude to the bigger battle on the horizon.

The latest salvo in the multinationals’ campaign to prevent generics from entering the market is a cute little postcard from The Canola Council, Pulse Canada and Cereals Canada, who we feel are the mouth pieces of the multinational chemical companies. It once again warns farmers not to use products such as quinclorac or chloremquat.

As usual, we feel that this rhetoric is built on scare tactics and fear mongering.

“Use only registered products”, the producer organizations say.  Ironically, quinclorac is registered for use on cleavers, but we believe they like to create the impression that generics are somehow inferior or problematic. It is our opinion that the only problem generics pose is to the corporate profit margins of the multinationals, fattened at farmers’ expense.

The producer organizations also advise farmers to talk to grain handlers who might not take delivery for fear that our end-users may not accept shipment. We are of the opinion that producer organizations like to mask that argument with a stalking horse called Maximum Residue Levels or MRLs.

Lately the Canola Council has been warning that China might not accept our canola if it has been exposed to quinclorac. We feel that this is unnecessary fear mongering. China produces the product, is the world’s heaviest user and has never rejected canola on the basis of quinclorac residue. Gerry Ritz met with the Chinese authorities on the matter and confirmed China has no MRL issues with Canada.  There is no science behind the claim, nor any evidence as the organizations have never produced one document or statement by China outlining their concern with quinclorac. It is our opinion that the Canola Council made it all up folks, where we feel they couch it in weasel words like ‘might’ or ‘could’ so they can say they were just speculating if they’re called out on it. Unfortunately, we feel that it is farmers’ livelihoods they are speculating with for their own gain.

So, why are these organizations expending so much energy to strike fear into the hearts of farmers? We are of the opinion that the answer is straightforward: Follow the money and control.

Here is how we see it: To take over the pesticide industry you create and/or endorse a phantom standard, like CODEX in order to have an imaginary bar that only the richest companies can achieve.  You then leave off all the low cost actives (pesticides) off patent and only register new high priced actives under new lengthy patents.  To ensure you get your high priced ones approved and others stymied, you manufacture a crisis. It doesn’t have to be real. That’s PR 101. But, if you have clout or are big and can threaten your customers who are small individuals with being shut-out of the system, you have a powerful hand.  In our opinion what better way than to work together through associations to monopolize and block out all competition from accessing world markets, who want the grain quincloric or not, as the grain companies have done by controlling port access.  In our opinion any half decent marketer can pick up the phone and sell all the quinclorac sprayed canola to foreign markets at top prices, but the grain companies refuse to handle it over phantom excuses they created.

It is our position that the long and the short of this story is as follows:  The big companies don’t have any interest in seeing low-cost generics in the marketplace, especially when their high-priced products are coming off patent protection. So, they manufacture a crisis. Throw out some scary or dire warnings and enlist so-called independent third parties to fire off a postcard to all producers with smoke-and-mirrors warnings.

And here’s the story-behind-the-story.

Sadly, we’ve been down this road before. Any producer who has been in business for more than a few years will remember what happened to seed prices.

We feel that crop protection products are next, where they are going to go the same way as seed with higher costs and limited options for farmers and no recourse if unhappy with things such as grade, dockage or basis when under contract. From our point of view, scaring producers off generics now, before a shopping list of products comes under scrutiny, seems to be how the game is played.

What we find truly interesting is that elevators proved last year they could market products which had been treated with quinclorac, and of course they can as they regularly handle many types of grains, grades, specs like protein levels, GMO vs non etc. This year THEY CHOOSE NOT TO.  With whatever damage producers suffer from cleavers or increased cost for herbicide, producers should keep this in mind (our estimates this year are in excess of 300 million): it is the grain handlers’ choice to take this option from growers, where we feel that they’ve enlisted groups such as CC to do their dirty work.

We feel that the end result is farmers’ options are limited even further, forcing them to higher cost products while their competitors in other grain-growing regions enjoy the benefit of low-cost alternatives.  In our opinion one thing is very clear, the CC does not represent the better interests of farmers, and their handlers the grain companies are showing the same.