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

Maxime Bernier makes stop in Chilliwack for fundraiser event

Leader and founder of the People’s Party of Canada speaks during brunch fundraiser for own party

UPDATE: Reports of rashes prompt pool closures at Harrison Hot Springs

Public pool available after all five mineral pools closed until further notice

Oil pipeline company offers cash to expand under two Chilliwack school yards

District offered $136,500 to widen from 18 to 42 metres through Vedder middle and Watson elementary

Chilliwack’s Chief Ernie Crey a firm pipeline supporter

Crey lauds NEB focus on marine safety in his role representing Indigenous oversight committee

Sarah Wark’s run just about done at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

With an overall record of 5-5, Wark’s Team B.C. won’t be qualifying for Saturday’s playoff round.

VIDEO: Iconic ‘snow cone’ takes shape at B.C. park near Clearwater

Snow cone forming at Wells Gray Provincial Park one that would make Disney’s Queen Elsa proud

Indigenous leaders, politicians say Trans Mountain report flawed

The National Energy Board has endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline a second time

Legislation to protect B.C. farmland comes into effect

Regulations enhance food security, encourage long-term farming

Have you heard the legend of Shuswaggi, the Shuswap Lake monster?

Witness accounts as old as 1904, and as recent as 2018, place a creature in the lake’s depths

UPDATE: B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

B.C.-based ‘Team Tardi’ brings home gold in junior curling worlds

In a 9-4 victory over Switzerland, a Langley-based curling team earned its 2nd straight world title

B.C. weavers to help Alaska Native project honouring survivors of violence

Dozens of Chilkat and Ravenstail weavers from all over North America will be weaving 5-inch-by-5-inch squares

B.C. skip Sarah Wark and team eliminated at Scotties Tournament of Hearts

Nontheless pretty impressive stuff from the 24th-ranked team in the country

Twilight Drive-In announces open season start date

Opening weekend will showcase a double feature with Aquaman at 7:15 p.m. and Glass at 9:50 p.m.

Most Read