District of Kent dairy farmer Mike Duncan’s farm has been in his family since 1885. With only 60 cows, he prides himself on the quality he feels he can provide with a small operation. (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

Kent dairy farmer losing sleep leading up to NAFTA deal

Says supply management necessary for small, family farms

At least one District of Kent dairy farmer has been losing sleep this week as ongoing trade negotiations between the U.S. and Canada loom over the future of his livelihood.

Just on the other side of Mount Woodside from Agassiz, Mike Duncan manages a dairy farm that’s been in his family for five generations – since 1885. He says if industry protections dissolve, and supply management with them, his 60-cow, family-sized dairy farm will be no more.

“I’ll be out of business. I won’t make it,” he said. “Trump is using farmers as pawns in his game.”

Duncan characterizes Trump’s efforts for increased access into Canadian markets as an effort to push the U.S.’s extra dairy products into Canadian stores.

“In his world, the excess milk from the U.S. would end up on our store shelves and push us out of business,” Duncan said.

Also a member of Mainland Milk Producers Association, Duncan employs only two people on his farm. He says he’s one of the smaller farms in the area, but most dairy farms in Kent only have between 65 and 150 cows. Some are bigger, but Duncan says all of them will suffer if supply management falls.

“Agriculture is huge [in Canada], we’re a big dairy hub. There’s 11,000 farms…What happens when that all goes away?”

Related: VIDEO: B.C. farmers worry NAFTA deal could affect livelihoods

Supply management was designed to put more power into the hands of Canadian farmers, allowing them to act collectively in determining price and production. Proponents of the system say it creates a quota for poultry, eggs and dairy – stabilizing price swings that could put small and mid-sized farms out of business.

The system is often criticized as a driver in the high price of dairy and poultry products in Canada, but Duncan doesn’t see it that way.

“All supply management has done is allowed us to negotiate a fair price to the processors,” he said. “We pay into the system and we get a certain amount of back and at least we have a structure where we know, a few months ahead of time, this is how it’s going to be [priced].”

In fact, Duncan points to subsidies in the U.S. for lower dairy prices – money that comes out of taxpayers’ pockets, whether they drink milk or not. He says without supply management, consumers will still pay a high price for dairy and poultry.

“The consumers are going to have to pay for it twice – they’ll have to pay for it at the grocery store and pay for it through their taxes,” he said.

While it has long been a source of controversy in Canada and between its various trade partners, supply management was recently pushed onto the political stage with U.S. President Donald Trump taking aim at the regulatory process during the re-negotiating of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada.

Trump has harshly criticized Canada’s dairy industry and continues to threaten leaders with tariffs to push Canada into conceding to his demands of increased market access for U.S. farmers.

Related: No deal yet as NAFTA renegotiation talks turn bitter at critical stage

While Duncan’s still nervous heading into Friday – the day NAFTA decisions are slated to roll in – he says he has faith in the Trudeau government at the bargaining table.

“I think [Trudeau] has made his commitment to [farmers] and that’s nice to know. He’s sticking it to Trump.

“We’re self-sustained, why would we give up our sovereignty to another country?” he said. “They don’t have the same guidelines and expectation that we have. Our milk is the best in the world, hands down.”



nina.grossman@ahobserver.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

VIDEO: Bloodhounds join the search for missing Chilliwack woman

Petsearchers Canada arrive in town Monday afternoon to help out

‘No little nook and cranny that’s too small’ in search for Chilliwack woman, say RCMP

Residents urged by police to assist in search for Grace Baranyk by checking property thoroughly

Search continues for missing elderly woman in Chilliwack

RCMP, Chilliwack Search and Rescue and community members combing area for Grace Baranyk

Big Chill a hot event in Langley

Flight Museum holds “ask the pilot panel” and demos flights for young pilots over the weekend

VIDEO: Hiker airlifted from Bridal Veil Falls Provincial Park Sunday

Park east of Chilliwack popular with tourist and B.C. residents who walk up to the falls

‘Bad choices make good stories’: Margaret Trudeau brings her show to Just for Laughs

Trudeau says over the decades she has been suicidal, manic, depressed

Diversity a Canadian strength, Trudeau says of Trump tweets at congresswomen

Trudeau avoided using Trump’s name when he was asked about the president’s Twitter comments

B.C. couple bring son home from Nigeria after long adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran of Abbotsford spent almost a year waiting to finalize adoption of Ayo, 3

Garneau ‘disappointed’ in airlines’ move against new passenger bill of rights

New rules codified compensation for lost luggage, overbooked flights

Mercury tops out on top of the world: Alert in Nunavut warmer than Victoria

It’s the latest anomaly in what’s been a long, hot summer across the Arctic

Canadian is detained in China on drug allegations: Chinese government

Detention of a Canadian in China comes as part a diplomatic dispute triggered by arrest of Huawei exec Meng Wanzhou

Too much time on social media can hurt teens’ mental health: study

Researchers conducted a four-year survey of more than 3,800 adolescents between Grades 7 and 11

Advocates want charges in horse deaths during Calgary Stampede chuckwagon races

Chuckwagon races are a nightly spectacle during the Stampede, a 10-day annual celebration of western life

ICBC insurance renewals get more complicated this year

Crash history, driver risk prompt more reporting requirements

Most Read