Trump’s beef about Canadian dairy ironic in light of U.S. Farm Bill

Supply management a “stable foundation” for the future, letter writer says

The Editor:

During this morning’s two-hour milking, the conversation with my son Ryan turned from hockey to supply management. As a young farmer just entering the business he is caught up in the social media spin surrounding supply management.

I provided the following perspective to him on why I support the supply management market model and why I feel it is sustainable going forward. Every developed country in the world has a mechanism to provide stability for its food production industry. Each sector in Canada has an established process whereby primary producers and governments at all levels engage in productive dialogue to move the evolution of the industry forward.

That process has resulted in a Canadian agricultural industry that is the envy of the world. Our record for quality, efficiency and environmental stewardship is second to none and if you pay attention to provincial and national budgets, agriculture is virtually invisible, not bad for Canada’s number one revenue and job creating industry.

Canada’s supply management system is a big part of that industry profile; it has evolved over 50 years to a market model which has unprecedented support from consumers, industry, governments, and farmers. As evidence I point to new plants in Guelph and Kingston and upgrades in many others that will provide good jobs as we produce for the growing demand for Canadian dairy.

Some of our aspiring leaders on the federal scene have undermined their credibility with statements that are simply not true. To suggest Canada should subscribe to a market model similar to New Zealand is troubling because it indicates no knowledge of the mess the world dairy market is in because of blind overproduction.

Every time the supply management argument surfaces numerous economists get on the bandwagon, and I struggle to understand the difference between dairy’s regulated format and the structured market that exists in countless other sectors of society. The same week that a Conservative leadership candidate took aim at Canadian dairy, Canadian governments endorsed the merger of Union Gas and Enbridge because it makes sense and increases efficiency. That move however effectively created a monopoly … nothing in the press, yet Canadian Dairy is called a cartel. We have more young producers in the industry now than at any time in our history.

The US Congress very shortly has to decide if it will further extend its borrowing ceiling for a national debt already creating incredible political pressure. With all due respect, the timing of President Trump’s comments on Canadian dairy while he proposes to cut $5.7 billion off the US Farm Bill is irony at its best.

As a Canadian farmer I sympathize with the farmers involved with the Grassland Dairy situation but the evolving market model used in Canada is responsive to the demands of processors, consumers, governments and farmers. It is generating market growth, investment, jobs and consumer confidence. If Canada lined up milk transports on the Wisconsin and New York borders filled with top quality milk and priced with a 75 cent dollar, words could not describe the reaction that would generate.

In closing I would like to leave you with this analogy which I think illustrates the unique nature of Canadian agriculture. The ring of fire in Northern Ontario is one of the biggest mineral deposits left in the world, but it is limited; in time, it will be developed and in 50 or 100 years it will be GONE…. Canadian Agriculture’s biggest advantage over most other resource based industries is that if we are smart we will be even more productive in 50 or 100 years, more environmentally conscious, and more responsive to consumer expectations. As we grow, for that market model to succeed, it has to be built on a stable foundation, and in dairy that stability comes from supply management.

Jim Wert
Dairy Farmer
Stormont County

 


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