Trade deals will milk Canadians

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In response to Mr Ryan’s column, Dispatches, in the Journal’s last issue,
concerning the Pacific Trade Pact and its potential effect on dairy farming, I’d like to add and re-inforce these points (abridged):

In response to Mr Ryan’s column, Dispatches, in the Journal’s last issue,
concerning the Pacific Trade Pact and its potential effect on dairy farming, I’d like to add and re-inforce these points (abridged):
Trade did not begin when the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was signed in 1989, and neither will it stop if the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is not signed. Trade agreements’ investor
protection clauses enable corporations to force governments to compensate them when social or environmental policy impedes profits. Today, Canada’s supply management system is under attack. New Zealand and USA want to sell their dairy products to Canadians, and lobbyists from other sectors within Canada want to
sacrifice the supply managed sectors to obtain benefits for their own sectors. While CETA, the TPP and NAFTA are called “trade” deals, they are really sets of rules that limit governments and empower
corporations.
Canadians support supply management. In 1969, in exchange for a commitment by all dairy farmers to apply production discipline, Ontario and Quebec implemented supply management regulation for dairy. Other provinces followed. Today’s dairy farmers supply a daily stream of fresh, high quality milk. Their farms are highly sophisticated, capital intensive
operations that require specialized,
experienced labour and management. In exchange, they receive a price based on the cost of production. Unlike Europe and the US, Canadian dairy farmers do not rely on government subsidies to make their living.
Canadian dairies also benefit, allowing them to run plants efficiently, using near full capacity year-round, unlike those in Europe and the USA. A constant,
predictable supply of fresh milk is needed every day for dairy processing. To meet this, dairy farmers must carefully plan
calving intervals, herd size, herd health, nutrition and feed inventory. The drive to efficiency in production is only valuable if real costs are reduced. Obtaining lower milk prices by compromising quality,
off-loading environmental costs, and under-paying labour is not progress. Subsidies provided in some but not all jurisdictions give the appearance of
efficiency but costs are just shifted from the marketplace to the public purse.
We could face food shortages. Over
the last century, the total farm population imploded from one-third of all
income-earners to less than one percent.
Canada has a significant agricultural resource land base, but it takes vision and common sense to utilize this potential. Climate change adds to the challenges. Those who would put trade agreements ahead of a made-in-Canada solution to the challenges of providing milk must answer serious questions. How fresh would imported milk be? How reliable would the supply be, and at what price? What quality standards, and who would enforce them? What would our countryside look like? How would the
local economy change after losing its family-owned dairy farms and their
related employment?
Supply management has a proven record of providing the right amount of affordable, high quality dairy products at all times. Free-trade deals like the TPP are not sacred cows, but do supply a lot of bull.

Jan Slomp, 
President of the National Farmers Union