B.C. dairy farmers offer tepid response to trade deal

Trans-Pacific Partnership could equal 23 million litres of lost Canadian milk on the market, but open door to foreign products

Dairy farmers aren't happy

Dairy farmers aren't happy

B.C.’s dairy farmers are taking a watchful waiting approach to Monday’s announcement of a Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The federal government announced on Monday that it has entered into the final agreement of the TPP, which seeks to ease trade between 12 Pacific countries, including Canada, the United States and New Zealand.

It has been seen as a threat to Canada’s supply management program for dairy producers, which helps ensure strength in that industry. The TPP, as presented on Monday, will grant market access to the other 11 countries in the TPP in an amount equal to 3.25 per cent of Canada’s 2016 milk production.

That equals about 250 million litres of milk, says Trevor Hargreaves of the BC Dairy Association. But the government has also announced a series of compensation programs for dairy, poultry and egg producers and processors. Those programs would remain in place for 10 years, with a tapering off for another five years.

“The three pillars of the supply management system will remain protected,” a Government of Canada announcement reads.

Four separate programs equalling $4.3 billion are expected to fill in any shortfalls felt at farms and producers as the TPP is introduced.

While dairy producers have rallied together over the last week as the trade negotiations were coming to a close, the BC Dairy Association reserved their criticism Monday, and even showed some optimism.

“Time is needed to fully evaluate the impacts of the agreement on our industry,” Hargreaves said. “The B.C. Dairy Association respects that it was a high priority for the government to enter into the TPP and, while the B.C. Dairy Association advocated for no additional access to the Canadian dairy market, we respect that additional access was a favourable outcome under the circumstances. We are optimistic that the protection programs for producer income, quota, and industry investment will continue to protect and defend supply management.”

Still, the trade agreement could lead to a loss in revenues at farms across Canada, something that would have trickle down effect on the overall economy.

“B.C. dairy farmers are not happy about the announcement of the TPP, as it means additional foreign access of dairy products into Canada amounting to about 3.25 per cent of Canada’s 2016 milk production, said Dave Taylor, BCDA Board Chair. “This equates to approximately 23 million litres of lost production to B.C. Dairy Producers that will result in lost revenue for the Canadian economy. We have always worked hard to grow our industry and produce a quality product. It’s a step backwards to lose market share and ultimately lose cows from our system. There is however, less anxiety today knowing that Supply Management is going to be sustainable for future generations – for that, we are grateful”.

New Zealand was pushing for better access to the Canadian marketplace, through more market share and eliminated tariffs.

Conservative candidate Mark Strahl called the TPP trade deal historic, and added that “Canada’s negotiators held firm and protected the system.”

It’s all good news for local farmers, he said.

“Our Conservative government promised that we would promote free trade and protect our system of supply management and we’ve kept that promise by doing both,” said Strahl. “This is a great day for Canadian farmers and the Canadian economy.”

The TPP trade deal includes 12-nations with a market of nearly 800 million customers with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $28 trillion – over 14 times the size of Canada’s economy. It is the largest free-trade agreement in history, and could give Canadian businesses access to some of the most dynamic markets in the free world.

Some opponents of the trade deal are concerned about food security, as more products move between borders.

“Canadians can be assured that the food they put on their table will continue to be safe,” said Strahl. “Nothing in the TPP will change our world leading food safety standards.”