Free trade with the land of the not so free – corrected


A free trade deal with the USA is one of the government’s goals – as it has been for previous administrations.

John Key pushed the free trade message during his meeting with Vice President Joe Biden.

No-one should be holding their breath while waiting for a positive result though.

To understand just how difficult achieving free trade with the USA will be you only have to look at the strength of  protection in its domestic economy.

The impact of  restrictions on potato growers in Manitoba is a good example:


  • With the new regulations introduced on March 31, 2010, you now have less choice when it comes to picking locally grown potatoes
  • When you buy Manitoba grown red potatoes from a major retailer, you are only supporting Peak of the Market’s 13 member potato growers because of their monopoly control within Manitoba

Small Potato Growers:

  • If you grow even as little as one acre of potatoes, you must apply to Peak of the Market for a permit
  • You are permitted to sell only ‘freshly dug’ potatoes
  • Your potatoes can only be sold in bulk (no pre-packaged bags)
  • Any potatoes unsold by November 1 every year ‘must be given to a food bank’

Farmers’ Markets and Seasonal Vegetable Stands:

  • Farmers wishing to sell potatoes must obtain a permit
  • Potatoes can no longer be sold at any market after November 1 of each year
  • Potatoes can now only be sold in ‘bulk’ (ie. no pre-packaged bags)

Year-Round Vegetable Stands:

  • Under these new regulations, small potato producers are no longer allowed to sell to you

Restaurant Owners:

  • If you wish to feature locally grown potatoes on your menu, they must now be purchased exclusively through Peak of the Market

Vegetable Wholesalers:

  • If you want to sell Manitoba grown potatoes, they must now come exclusively from Peak of the Market

One of the comments left on the blog show what the regulations mean to a single grower:

I am a farm woman and I earn a living growing food especially vegetables. I love farming with a passion , and I’m enthusiastic about planning my garden months ahead. This new regulation will put an almost complete halt to my operation. My seeds are ordered and I have already purchased my potato seeds. I am in disbelief that they some 13 farmers can be so powerful and disregard their fellow Man. farmers. I will also be disappointing my 7 to 10 part-time employees like me enjoy and find great satisfaction in this line of work. I’am creating my own employment and giving someone else a chance at a job in the emplyment section. With ll the talk of supporting small manitoba local farmers, now is the time to speak up because as a grower, it will be a challenge to be able to keep operating as we were in the past. I SINCERELY AM SO VERY HOPEFUL THAT I WILL HAVE FREEDOM TO GROW FOR YOU my vegetables this summer. Jeanne Berard Garden

This is the power 13 potato growers can wield against their immediate neighbours. The combined power of the country’s producers and manufacturers against the perceived threat from New Zealand if protective barriers are lowered will be far worse.

The USA is supposed to be the land of the free but when it comes to trade it’s the land of the not so free.

Hat Tip: Offsetting Behaviour.


Julie has pointed out my geogrpahical error – Manitoba is of course in Canada, not the USA.

Producers in the USA are protective about imports but I don’t know any examples, like the Candaian potato one, of protection on their domestic market.

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