Farmers say ‘no’ to Trans-Pacific trade deal Pontiac cattle, tractors crowd Parliament Hill

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Allyson Beauregard

OTTAWA – Hundreds of dairy farmers, tractors, and cattle lined Wellington Street from the War Memorial to Bank Street at the foot of Parliament Hill, September 29, to protest
a looming trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Pontiac dairy
farmers say the deal threatens their livelihood. Aside from the large procession

Allyson Beauregard

OTTAWA – Hundreds of dairy farmers, tractors, and cattle lined Wellington Street from the War Memorial to Bank Street at the foot of Parliament Hill, September 29, to protest
a looming trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Pontiac dairy
farmers say the deal threatens their livelihood. Aside from the large procession
of tractors and cattle, other participants waved picket signs and poured milk
on the pavement. Other protests have been staged, including one at the
border at Herdman,
near Chateauguay, September 30.
Quebec and Ontario farmers fear the TPP, a massive 12-country trade deal being negotiated in secret in Atlanta, Georgia, last week, could kill Canada’s supply management system, which helps their operations stay profitable. For starters, 10% of Canadian dairy markets could be opened to American producers with this deal.
Supply management controls the price of
products like milk, eggs,
and cheese; it restricts
supply of the products by controlling the amount
produced domestically and limiting imports with tariffs that shield the markets from competition from foreign producers. There are no more boom-and-bust cycles in these sectors.
The TPP would also replace NAFTA, and give corporations the power to sue any government which “limits” their profits via environmental, safety, or labour laws.
Many Pontiac producers, including Robbie Beck from Cyrus and Robbie Beck Farms in Shawville joined the protest; Edward Rusenstrom, Christopher Tracey, Kyle Hodgins, and Mr. Beck, all dairy farmers, travelled to the protest by truck, hauling a cattle trailer and one of Beck’s dairy cows, Lea.  Stephane and Justin Allarie from Luskville participated with their tractors.
“We were sending two messages: one to the
government telling them to support supply management not only with words, but action by maintaining tariffs;  the other message is to consumers to let them know that the high quality products we are proud
to produce are being threatened,” explained Beck, who said the protest was
organized with short notice.
“We found out, Monday at 3 PM, that it was a go-ahead. We felt the timing was crucial and that we had to get our point across while the negotiations were in process,” he added.
Beck, and most farmers, recognize the TPP could benefit some Canadian
producers, like beef. “We realize there are some
benefits for other markets who are experiencing ample supply, but access to our dairy market is being requested in exchange. We don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb to make it happen,” he told the Journal.
Citing the CETA agreement signed last year by the Harper government which allowed 17,700 tons of
foreign cheeses into the country per year, Beck said he is sceptical of Harper’s claim that he “will defend” supply management. “The four pillars of supply management are: control at the border with tariffs; managing supply with quotas; and setting the price at the farm gate to ensure production costs are covered. Harper is saying he will support supply management to the end, but he is also willing to let foreign products into the country. You can’t do both, so which is it?” asked Beck, who said any compensation promised to dairy farmer’s if the deal goes through is not enough.  He says it’s the industry’s future and the future of new farmers that are at stake. It would affect the entire Pontiac economy.
“Compensation was promised in the CETA
deal as well and there
really hasn’t been any.
I don’t think they
remember their promises,”
concluded Beck.