De­fend­ing dairy

P.E.I. pro­duc­ers say Cana­dian sys­tem not to blame for U.S. in­dus­try woes

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MITCH MAC­DON­ALD

Is­land farm­ers re­main united in their sup­port for Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem, says the chair­man of the Dairy Farm­ers of P.E.I.

Harold MacNevin, who owns and op­er­ates a small dairy farm in West Devon, said P.E.I. pro­duc­ers have been fol­low­ing re­cent trade talks be­tween Canada and the U.S. on their in­dus­try.

“We’re al­ways con­cerned in the process of any ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Some­times things can change in the 11th hour,” said MacNevin.

“We’re fol­low­ing (ne­go­ti­a­tions) very closely and keep­ing on top of it… (Canada’s sys­tem) is not some­thing we just take for granted.”

Those talks heated up this week when U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump made trade threats against the in­dus­try by claim­ing Canada over­taxes Amer­i­can dairy through its sup­ply man­age­ment while also at­tack­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau.

MacNevin said all Cana­dian dairy pro­duc­ers — there are about 165 in P.E.I. — are united in their sup­port for the coun­try’s sys­tem.

“It’s a sys­tem that’s work­ing for all stake­hold­ers,” said MacNevin, who has seen strong sup­port from con­sumers. “They rec­og­nize they re­ceive a con­sis­tent sup­ply of qual­ity milk at a fair price. The Cana­dian govern­ment does not sub­si­dize (dairy). Con­sumers only pay at the gro­cery store and not through their taxes.’

The sys­tem has seen sup­port from both sides of the House of Com­mons this week, with Malpeque MP Wayne Easter de­scrib­ing Trump’s threats as bully tac­tics and “not the right ap­proach to take to ne­go­ti­a­tions.”

Both MacNevin and Easter agreed that the U.S.’s dairy prob­lems are largely a re­sult of over­pro­duc­tion, which has left some U.S. dairy farm­ers with nowhere to send their milk. Easter pointed to U.S. sup­port sys­tems such as floor prices and cow culling as con­tribut­ing to the woes.

“They’re ac­tu­ally sub­si­diz­ing their to­tal agri­cul­ture in­dus­try in the U.S. by some 20 bil­lion a year. Over the last 10 years, their sup­port in the dairy in­dus­try works out to about 31 cents a litre,” said Easter. “They’re a highly sub­si­dized in­dus­try from the tax­payer.”

Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem avoids sur­plus pro­duc­tion and sub­si­diza­tion with the three pil­lars be­ing import con­trol, pro­ducer pric­ing and pro­duc­tion dis­ci­pline.

Easter said the sys­tem pro­vides the sta­bil­ity and sus­tain­abil­ity that al­lows for in­vest­ment.

“It’s a sys­tem that works and we have to stand by it,” said Easter, who also pro­moted the qual­ity of Cana­dian dairy by not­ing hor­mones used to pro­duce more milk such as rBGH are le­gal in the U.S.

Easter was part of a com­mit­tee in the late 1990s that made the use of those hor­mones il­le­gal in Canada.

“(We man­age) sup­ply to meet de­mand, so we don’t need to in­ject hor­mones into cattle to pro­duce more milk,” said Easter, who also de­scribed a re­port from the Canada West Foun­da­tion that stated the av­er­age Cana­dian house­hold pays $600 more for milk and chicken than in the U.S. as a since dis­cred­ited num­ber.

With the U.S. ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing an ap­prox­i­mate 5-1 dairy trade sur­plus with Canada, MacNevin said the coun­try had the chance to in­crease its share of Canada’s dairy mar­ket un­der the Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship.

That agree­ment, now the Com­pre­hen­sive and Pro­gres­sive Agree­ment for Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship, would see Canada give a fur­ther 3.25 per cent of the mar­ket share to trade part­ners.

MITCH MAC­DON­ALD/THE GUARDIAN

Alex Mac­Don­ald of High­lander Farm in Cra­paud pushes some feed closer to the sixth-gen­er­a­tion fam­ily farm’s dairy cows on Wed­nes­day. Mac­Don­ald is one of many farm­ers who feel Canada’s sup­ply man­age­ment sys­tem is one of the in­dus­try’s strengths.

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