MONTREAL â Have you heard Danny Dempster is retiring?
It was hard to miss at the 86th annual Canadian Produce Marketing Association convention April 13-15 in Montreal.
No one knows what his involvement will be in the produce industry after his official May 1 retirement.
On the last day of the convention, April 15, Dempster told me he doesnât even know.
He said he wonât know how heâll feel about it until itâs truly over and heâs driving back home to Ottawa over the weekend. He said he didnât want to look ahead too far because he didnât want to miss out on the now.
Not a bad philosophy for life, really.
Dempster has always come across as down to earth, and heâs always embraced that, but those who know him best say he knows far more than he lets on.
One thing he learned from his father, he told the audience at the April 15 general session, is that even while everyone may argue during the day at a meeting, they get along better and come to a consensus once the whiskey comes out.
Dan certainly gets along.
âIâve always wanted to get people to think that CPMA is a place where everyone knows your name,â he said, referring to the TV classic âCheers,â âand Iâm Norm Peterson.â
Dempster was also renowned for getting things done.
Western Growers executive vice president Matt McInerney said in his tribute to Dempster, âDan has been a role model for public policy by concentrating on the finish line, not on who gets the credit.â
Dempsterâs successor Ron Lemaire summed it up. âThe industry truly loves him.â
On CPMAâs business side, it seems the industryâs effort to create a Canadian trust system similar to the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act is finally getting somewhere thanks to the threat of trade retaliation.
It was a subject of an April 15 workshop, and attendee Ken Forth, president of the Ottawa-based Canadian Horticultural Council, recounted the challenges, including losing momentum recently as the May 2 election nears.
Fred Webber, vice president of trading assistance for the Ottawa-based Dispute Resolution Corp., said the industry is taking a different approach with the Canadian government than in the past.
âIn the past, we took the more politically correct approach,â he said. âNow weâre more urgent.â
Webber said in the past six months the industry really hit the issue hard, even though itâs been a problem for more than 15 years.
WGAâs McInerney said the produce industry on both sides of the Canadian border is making more progress than in the past because itsmessage is more organized.
For years, he said, Canadian officials have denied thereâs a problem.
To illustrate the point that Canadaâs lack of a PACA-like trust is in fact a problem, many have pointed out that Canadian produce shippers have more protection sending product to the U.S. than trading within its own borders because PACA applies to importers.
That doesnât even include the lack of protection for U.S. shippers sending product to Canada.
McInerney estimated U.S. firms build in a 1% to 5% surcharge to account for that same percentage of times shippers will not be paid for a load going to Canada.
That ultimately costs Canadian consumers.
Mexico shows how to retaliate
The U.S. was on the other end of a trade dispute with Mexico. NAFTA rules agreed to let Mexican trucks travel into the U.S., but the U.S. wouldnât allow them. So Mexico slapped a tariff on many U.S. goods going into Mexico, including fresh produce.
Youâve read about this, Iâm sure.
You better believe that got the U.S.âs attention, and an agreement was reached recently.
The U.S. has a similar option with Canada in this case. McInerney and Webber suggested the U.S. insist that Canada move toward a PACA-like trust or the U.S. should strip Canadian companiesâ rights under PACA in the U.S.
Harsh? Sure, but not as harsh as a 50% tariff.
McInerney said produce groups plan to meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Trade Representative officials in May to discuss options, including stripping PACA rights for Canadian produce companies.
McInerney calls it âstrong encouragement.â I call it getting serious. Some might even call it a threat.
Whatever itâs called, it has to get done.
As Danny Dempster would like, it doesnât matter who gets the credit.
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