I want to start by unequivocally expressing our support for the farmers in India who have worked tirelessly to provide for more than a billion people. We have served many of these Indian farmers over the years and we have become close to this situation. India is a country with many small farm operations. These farms are family-owned enterprises that focus on the needs of their community. In my view, government needs to support small business owners and this new regulatory system heavily favours big business and multi-national corporations.
For a brief background, the Government of India passed laws in September 2020 that included 3 parts: 1. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act which is designed to expand the scope of trade areas from the previous and established selected areas; 2. Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act which creates a legal framework to resolve disputes; and, 3. Essential Commodities Act which removes many items from the list of “essential commodities” and removes stockholding limits, among other things. For a detailed explanation of the “Farm Bills”, please click here for more information.
BBC News has clearly articulated the effects of the laws:
Taken together, the reforms will loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce – rules that have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades.
They also allow private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorised agents could do earlier; and they outline rules for contract farming, where farmers tailor their production to suit a specific buyer’s demand.
To be clear, I do not practice Indian law and I am not an expert in the laws of India. We support, however, small business owners and we have seen, time and time again, how multi-national corporations destroy the livelihoods of small business owners. For example, when Walmart opened a huge box store near my grandmother’s town in Red Wing, Minnesota, most of the downtown shops were gutted and it became a ghost town. Main Street was mostly boarded up. Red Wing was saved by tourism. I cannot see how the millions of lost jobs are going to be saved by another industry.
In my view, Canada needs to support the farmers in India. We need to build connections with these farmers and support small businesses. Unlike the Premier of Saskatchewan, I do not agree with the Indian government’s Farm Bills, as described above. Instead, we need to support the farmers. This is consistent with the Liberal Government’s family-first approach.