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C’mon Uncle Sam, cut us some slack

Here we stand, sharing a global battlefield with our neighbors to the south. Our troops are working shoulder-to-shoulder fighting the war on terrorism, hunting for bin Laden and trying to make the wor...


Here we stand, sharing a global battlefield with our neighbors to the south. Our troops are working shoulder-to-shoulder fighting the war on terrorism, hunting for bin Laden and trying to make the world a better place.

So why is it U.S. officials are working overtime trying to ferret out new ways to throw down their gloves and have go-after-go with Canada on the trade front?

The softwood lumber dispute has been raging for some time having cost thousands of Canadian jobs and literally billions in lost revenue for producers.

Who are among the first casualties? Truckers, that’s who.

Just before the bipolar wood war erupted, our two nations’ trade negotiators were just getting back on speaking terms after a lengthy row over something as Canadian as poutine: the P.E.I. potato.

The U.S. banned all imports of these premier spuds after a miniscule portion of a single field developed a fungal infection.

This wart virus, while contagious among potatoes, is harmless to humans. (It merely makes the spud look a little less appealing.)

Purely by coincidence, the industry represents $36 million of the Island’s fragile economy, which also happened to be the exact amount of overproduction that occurred during the same growing season in Idaho. Again the trucking industry is one of the hardest hit by the ban – some small P.E.I. fleets reported losing $10,000 a week.

Now there are rumblings Uncle Sam’s new Farm Security Act has been armed with a legislative cattle prod and it aims to discourage Canadian meat showing up in U.S. fridges. Under the new labeling requirement, foreign beef, pork and lamb would need to be processed separately from U.S. meats. As well, the country of origin would need to be clearly marked on the product for end consumers to see.

American slaughterhouses and retailers would be faced with the prospect of absorbing huge costs or simply passing them on to their customers. Either way the result is likely the same. At some level of the process someone will refuse to pay the inflated price and Canuck meat will no longer flow freely into the vast, yet oft-vacuous, U.S. market.

Livestock exports to the southern side of the 49th parallel represent $6.5 billion annually: $5 billion for the cattle industry and $1.5 billion for pork producers.

While there have been no official estimates made, one can’t help but wonder how many millions this will cost the truckers who earn their daily bread piloting the many cattleliners of the west.

Speaking of bread, a fourth Can-Am trade dispute may be brewing and again it’s the U.S. pushing the matter forward.

The North Dakota Wheat Commission is performing its semi-annual, saber-rattling session; snorting and cussing over what it calls unfair trade practices. Apparently, Canadian farmers scratching out a living amounts to something unfair under the gunmetal-blue-eyed-glare of capitalism. As always, North Dakotans are demanding the head of the Canadian Wheat Board be jammed on a stick and placed at the border as a warning to other foreigners audacious enough to hawk their wares in the U.S.

Again it will be truckers who share in the fallout of this battle alongside Canadian farmers.

No matter what the example, when some hot-head started harassing Canucks in the Land of the Free, it is always this nation’s trucker who is forced to stand on the frontline of a war he often knows little to nothing about. It would be nice if the Yanks could remember who their friends are at least once in a while.

John Curran can be reached by phone at 416-442-2091 or by email at jcurran@trucknews.com


Truck News

Truck News

Truck News is Canada's leading trucking newspaper - news and information for trucking companies, owner/operators, truck drivers and logistics professionals working in the Canadian trucking industry.
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