BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post What do farmers want?Todd Lewis, president of the Agricultural Producers Association of Saskatchewan, said those issues are “significant” for Saskatchewan farmers. He suggested that many are looking for federal commitments as they navigate choppy trade waters across the world.Lewis isn’t expecting the parties to lay out a “hard and fast plan” to resolve all existing trade barriers in their election platforms, given how much relies on unpredictable international negotiations. But Saskatchewan farmers have clear interests abroad.“We want to see more trade, not less,” Lewis said.He wants a commitment that agriculture will have “a place at the table” in trade negotiations. But rough patches are inevitable, and Lewis said farmers need better risk management programming to carry them through.Federal improvements to the Advanced Payment Program (APP) this May were welcome. They opened the door to higher interest-free loans for canola farmers. But Lewis said that’s more of a “Band-Aid” than a long-term solution.Farm groups also weren’t impressed with a recent risk management review process, according to Lewis.“We’re still not seeing much movement on those files for improvement to programs like AgriStability or AgriInvest,” he said.“At the end of the day, it may end up costing governments more money, but it’s an investment in the future of our industry.”Lewis also pointed to the carbon tax, rural Internet access and rail service as key issues for farmers.Specific sectors have their own demands. Sask Wheat wants the federal government to take Italy to the WTO over durum, just like it did for canola.“We need the help of the federal government, regardless of the party in power,” said Sask Wheat vice-chair Scott Hepworth.What are the parties offering?The Liberal government has attacked the canola blockade on several fronts, arguing that Chinese phytosanitary accusations are without basis and pushing for technical discussions to prove it.Trade minister Jim Carr has also led high-level missions to markets like South Korea and Japan, with the aim of reducing reliance on the volatile Chinese market.Early this month the government took the next step, seeking bilateral consultations with China at the World Trade Organization.But the Conservatives say that action came too late.“We’ve got nine lost months,” said Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer in a recent interview with the Leader-Post. “There’s no reason for that length of time to drag on.“We need to be right in there immediately fighting with facts and also looking to our allies to support our cause.”Scheer said he will prioritize opening up new markets and reducing trade barriers, without gutting domestic supports. He pledges to defend supply management and criticized the Liberals for making too many concessions in their trade deals.NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has made “fair trade” his mantra, saying Canada should only sign deals that protect Canadian industries and uphold labour and environmental standards.The New Democrats promise to “defend Canadian agricultural products like canola from unfair retaliation in overseas markets.” But they also advocate more locally sourced agriculture. That’s also a priority for the Green Party, which criticizes “industrial” export-based agriculture and advocates a move toward “local, organic production systems.”The Greens say that means research and support to assist farmers in making the transition, while setting a target to replace Canadian food imports with local production.The PPC’s signature agricultural proposal is leader Maxime Bernier’s longstanding quest to eliminate supply management.The party aims to liberalize trade “with as many countries as possible.”[email protected] The Regina Leader-Post and the Saskatoon StarPhoenix are delving into some of the most pressing issues affecting Saskatchewan voters during the election campaign. Today, trade barriers facing farmers and the state of agriculture in the province.What’s the issue?Saskatchewan farmers aren’t just worrying about the weather during a harvest-season election campaign, as trade irritants in three major export markets continue to fester.Farm groups want to hear what the federal parties have to offer to support producers and open up trade.Barriers have been on the rise since 2017, when India began charging a fumigation fee on Canadian pulses and imposed sky-high tariffs on chickpeas, lentils and peas.That same year, Italy moved to require country-of-origin labelling on pasta packages. The rules came amid a campaign against Canadian durum wheat imports, which Italy’s largest farm group framed as hazardous due to the use of glyphosate herbicide on Canadian farms.Story continues belowThis advertisement has not loaded yet,but your article continues below.Both issues remain. But the latest dispute has his Saskatchewan the hardest.Early this March, the Chinese General Administration of Customs began sending warnings to Canadian canola exporters. It listed a half dozen pathogens it alleged had shown up in shipments.It was the beginning of a canola crackdown that observers connected to the detention of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou on an American extradition request.Since then, Chinese importers have proven unwilling to buy Canadian canola seed. The largest market for Saskatchewan’s biggest cash crop is essentially closed, leaving farmers with stockpiles of canola they can’t sell at a decent price. What’s at stake?Canola and wheat are Saskatchewan’s two biggest crops by volume and seeded acres. By reducing demand for Canadian products, trade barriers depress prices and cost the provincial economy hundreds of millions of dollars.The province traded $3.56 billion in wheat and $3.15 billion in canola seed in 2018, while lentils and peas also brought in substantial revenue.Exports of all those crops have been affected by the trade disputes.China is the province’s second largest export market and its largest customer for canola seed. It bought $1.5 billion of seed from Saskatchewan in 2018, about half of the province’s total canola exports.India dropped from Saskatchewan’s third largest market to seventh place in 2018, as exports fell by 48.1 per cent. The Saskatchewan Trade and Export Partnership blamed that primarily on the pulse restrictions.Canada’s total durum exports took a plunge of 22 per cent after Italy’s country-of-origin rules came into effect. Sask Wheat says Italian imports of Canadian durum fell from a million tonnes annually to just over 328,000 tonnes in the 2017-18 season. Ryan Loughren swaths hard red spring wheat northwest of Regina.