Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may have said “it’s a good day for Canada” as a new North American trade deal was inked, but dairy farmers say otherwise.
With the thorny issue of supply management at the forefront of trade negotiations between the U.S. and Canada, there was nervousness in the sector as the Americans pushed more access to the Canadian market.
U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently criticized Canada’s dairy industry and its supply management system that he calls a subsidy. In the end, the so-called U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) includes access to the Canadian market by American dairy farmers.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) reacted swiftly and harshly to the deal, calling Trudeau’s claim that it’s “a good day” nothing but spin.
“This is a bad outcome for dairy farmers and the whole dairy sector,” the DFC said in a statement. “The government has conceded access to our domestic market to the U.S., affecting our ability to produce Canadian milk. By doing so, it is slowly bleeding Canada’s dairy sector.”
Sixth generation Chilliwack dairy farmer Devan Toop said the deal made will do nothing to help struggling U.S. dairy farmers nor will it help consumers on this side of the border with lower prices.
“Prices of milk or cheese will not go down because the processors and grocers will absorb the margin,” Toop said on social media soon after word of the deal was released on the weekend. “Canadian dairy farmers will now be paid less for their milk as processors import product from the states. Trump has turned the absurdity of American dairy, a system that needs reform to survive, into a talking point to help Republicans in the upcoming byelection.”
Toop was asked about Trump and supply management during a recent farm tour, and he responded that Americans need supply management as much as Canada needs to keep it.
“The problem with their milk system isn’t having enough places to put it, it is that they are over-producing on such a grand scale. They are dumping milk left, right and centre.”
In response to more of what the DFC called “spin” by the Trudeau government, instead of defending supply management, it called the Canadian government’s concessions “death by a thousand cuts.”
And while the premiers of Canada’s two largest provinces came out strongly against the federal government’s concessions on dairy, a statement by Premier John Horgan on USMCA issued Monday made no mention of the industry.
Premier Philippe Couillard took to Twitter calling Trudeau’s actions “une grande déception” for dairy producers.
J’ai participé à l’appel avec M. Trudeau et je lui ai exprimé notre profonde déception. Une grande déception pour les producteurs de lait. Une grande déception pour nos familles dans les régions du Québec. Une grande déception pour les Québécoises et les Québécois.#PolQc #AEUMC
— Philippe Couillard (@phcouillard) October 1, 2018
Premier Doug Ford, similarly, said Ontario would hold the federal government accountable for compensating dairy farmers.
We're going to stand up for our farmers and our agriculture sector. We're going to protect the workers in our steel, aluminium, and automotive industries. And we're going to hold the federal government accountable to ensure our dairy farmers are fairly compensated. #USMCA #onpoli pic.twitter.com/qdUc3eIUrh
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) October 1, 2018
As for dairy farmers here in B.C., there is frustration with the concessions made by Canada’s negotiating team, and certainly some uncertainty for how it will affect them.
“We Canadian dairy farmers are battered, but not broken. Show your support at the store,” Toop said. “Look for the Canadian quality milk symbol on products containing cheese or other dairy goods. If it’s not on the box, it’s made using American dairy.”