‘Dairy farm­ers here are very, very dis­ap­pointed’

N.S. dairy farm­ers un­happy with USMCA deal

Annapolis Valley Register - - LIVING - BY THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

It’s a bad day down on the farm. “It’s go­ing to hurt, again,” dairy farmer Der­ick Can­ning of Up­per Stewiacke said of the re­cently struck U.S.-Mex­ico-Canada Trade Agree­ment.

“It’s the third deal in the row that we gave up ac­cess. We’ve got the only (dairy mar­ket) sys­tem in the world that works and ev­ery­body else in the world wants it gone and our govern­ment is yet to take a stand to de­fend us.”

The tri­par­tite deal that re­places the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment will grant an ex­panded 3.6 per cent mar­ket ac­cess to the Cana­dian dairy mar­ket and elim­i­nate com­pet­i­tive dairy classes, which the Dairy Farm­ers of Canada say will shrink the in­dus­try.

“Dairy farm­ers here are very, very dis­ap­pointed,” said Brian Cameron, gen­eral man­ager of the Dairy Farm­ers of Nova Sco­tia. “The ac­cess is a na­tional num­ber, that 3.59 per cent, and it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter whether it comes into B.C. or On­tario, it still af­fects all pro­duc­ers be­cause we have a na­tional sys­tem.”

Both Can­ning and Cameron said the lat­est deal comes on the heels of trade agree­ments with the Eu­ro­pean Union and the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship coun­tries that had al­ready cre­ated more for­eign ac­cess to the Cana­dian dairy mar­ket.

“It’s all ad­di­tive and it’s all per­pet­ual,” Cameron said. “Once you lose the mar­kets, you never get those back. That just means more and more im­ports each year.”

He said Cana­dian dairy ex­ports will also be slashed.

“Canada sees it­self as an ex­port coun­try and yet this is putting lim­its on those ex­ports, which is a dou­ble whammy,” Cameron said.

“We are do­ing some pre­lim­i­nary es­ti­mates and try­ing to un­der­stand the num­bers. The fed­eral govern­ment is try­ing to down­play it as not be­ing too sig­nif­i­cant. It cer­tainly looks like it’s more than the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship deal and that was $160 mil­lion to $170 mil­lion lost in rev­enue once it was fully in place. This could ap­proach $200 mil­lion lost to the dairy farm­ers of the coun­try. And it’s not just the farm­ers. This re­duces the amount of cheese, but­ter, yo­gurt, ice cream, dairy prod­ucts that (do­mes­tic) pro­ces­sors need to make to serve Cana­di­ans.”

Can­ning said the deal won’t turn things around in the U.S. in­dus­try.

“The ac­cess that they’ve gained will do noth­ing for them,” Can­ning said. “It hurts us a lot but it’s a drop in the bucket for them.

“I ex­pect the price I get paid for my milk at the farm here to go down, again. We lost 3.6 per cent of our quota again. I ex­pect to feel that. We just had a sub­stan­tial quota cut here this year al­ready. That af­fects my bot­tom line.”

The Can­ning Farm Ltd., op­er­a­tion milks 115 cows, but Can­ning said the num­ber of milk cows will have to drop to match any re­duced quota.

“We’ll prob­a­bly have to milk a few less cows. That means less milk and less money.”

He said the cows culled from the milk­ing ro­ta­tion would prob­a­bly end up at McDon­ald’s.

“I say that jok­ingly but that is pretty much what they’d be used for — ham­burger.”

Cameron doesn’t put too much stock in For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land’s re­cent prom­ise that all farm­ers in the sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem will be fairly com­pen­sated for the ad­di­tional mar­ket ac­cess be­ing given to trad­ing part­ners in the deal.

“We were ask­ing for no harm to the in­dus­try and that isn’t what was de­liv­ered,” Cameron said. “One of the things that get talked about is that we can just com­pen­sate the dairy in­dus­try for those losses. It’s per­pet­ual losses ev­ery year, so, how do you do that? The Cana­dian govern­ment came out with a $250-mil­lion pro­gram to com­pen­sate pro­duc­ers’ losses in the Eu­ro­pean trade deal. The prob­lem is that not all pro­duc­ers were el­i­gi­ble for it and the $250 mil­lion cov­ered a half year’s worth of im­ports and then the money runs out.”

Cameron said there are 210 fam­ily dairy farms op­er­at­ing in Nova Sco­tia, col­lec­tively pro­duc­ing about 200 mil­lion litres of milk a year. Although that ac­counts for only 2.2 per cent of na­tional pro­duc­tion, it means $145 mil­lion at the farm gate in this prov­ince, he said.

“That’s what they get paid for their milk. You could prob­a­bly more than dou­ble that when you talk about value added when you put the pro­cess­ing to­gether with it. It would be above $300 mil­lion to­tal value of dairy prod­ucts.”

The U.S. dairy in­dus­try is 10 times the size of the Cana­dian in­dus­try, Cameron said.

“U.S. farm­ers have said that this sort of deal is not go­ing to solve their (over-pro­duc­tion) prob­lems south of the border. It is un­for­tu­nate that it has been por­trayed as maybe it will.”

Cameron said it’s un­clear how the ex­tended ac­cess is go­ing to play out on the shelves of Cana­dian gro­cery stores.

“Some­times they bring it in for what we call fur­ther pro­cesses. Ex­am­ples would be bring­ing in but­ter in bulk and then sell­ing it to a cookie-maker here, cheese on Miche­lina’s meals or pizza. It’s part of a fur­ther pro­cessed food­stuff ver­sus blocks of cheeses or blocks of but­ter. We don’t know that yet.”

He does know that lo­cal dairy farm­ers are up­set.

“There are some very dis­grun­tled dairy farm­ers now, un­der­stand­ably, and yet it’s be­yond their con­trol. The border con­trols are fed­eral govern­ment and they’ve un­for­tu­nately done what they did two times al­ready.”

TIM KROCHAK/CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Dairy farmer Tim Marsh of Po­plar Grove is seen with young Hol­steins, some of his 200 dairy cat­tle. Marsh is an ex­ec­u­tive mem­ber of the Nova Sco­tia Fed­er­a­tion of Agri­cul­ture.

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