Reuters has a story today about the current Canadian government's resistance to agriculture proposals in the Doha round of WTO talks. Some domestic farm produce (dairy, poultry) is apparently protected by import tariffs of over 200 percent (!).

At the same time a report from CIBC World Markets indicates that even if the current USD 130+ price of oil is merely a spike (wanna bet?), higher energy costs will act to counteract globalization in many fields. Also, in a TED talk I have been spamming people with recently (but delivered in 2004) James Howard Kunstler repeatedly emphasizes that integrating farming with urbanized pockets is by far the most sensible format for continued development in North America.

It is unfortunate that so much effort and grief is expended on the issue of protectionism, and so little on encouraging local buying. Worse is the isolation of these issues into unrelated 'topics', a disservice done to readers by media outlets. A well-designed carbon tax or cap-and-trade system would almost automatically reward people for eating locally, and push the price of what Kunstler calls the "3000-mile Caesar salad" towards a corresponding $3000. Because import=distance=emissions=cost, domestic farmers would be supported. The average citizen would probably save on groceries, and certainly the government could divert resources from protracted trade negotiations to more pressing work.

Instead, I worry these issues—tariffs, energy and local eating—will be tackled separately, and despite the best intentions of many the end result will be as unworkable as the current situation.


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