Canadian dairy farmers talk NAFTA

Melanie ConsCanadian Farm News

Producers call for the Canadian government to protect their industry and supply management

Lauren Arva
Staff Writer
Pierre Lampron, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), and producers from across the country met in Ottawa this morning to discuss their concerns about NAFTA negotiations and their impacts on the dairy industry.
Several farmers spoke of their passion for their livestock and businesses, as well as their care in producing the highest quality dairy products for Canadians.
David Taylor, chair of the BC Dairy Association and dairy farmer from Vancouver Island, highlighted the need to support supply management.
“I’m proud of our Canadian-made supply management system. Supply management, to the farmer, brings stability, predictability, and a place for our milk that can cover our cost of production if we are efficient farmers,” he said in the press conference.
On Saturday morning, Taylor heard someone say that the price of Canadian milk is too high, and that supply management and the powerful Canadian dairy lobby is blocking NAFTA.
These claims are “rubbish,” said Taylor.
“Who is this powerful Canadian dairy lobby? Well, it’s people like me … I’m a farmer, I’m a father, a husband and a small business owner.
“Together with my family, we’re trying to sustain our land and apply best animal practices to produce food for Canadians,” he added.
The Canadian dairy lobby also includes the people who work alongside him and his family, said Taylor. They are the people who come to pick up his milk, testers, staff at processing plants, veterinarians, equipment dealers and feed manufacturers.
“We’re all Canadians who want to preserve a strong, dynamic, robust dairy industry,” he said. “I believe that all of us together have a ripple effect through the whole Canadian economy from coast to coast.”
Many farmers asked the Canadian government to defend the dairy industry during  NAFTA negotiations.
“The US industry is 11 times bigger than the Canadian industry,” said Tom Koostra, chair of Alberta Milk and farmer from Ponoka.
“Canada has fewer than one million cows, 300,000 less than the state of Wisconsin, 800,000 less than the state of California. So, even if the Americans were to replace every drop of Canadian milk, it wouldn’t be the solution to their over-production.”
The farmer panel highlighted the challenges of the over-production of milk in the U.S.
“Whenever I watch the news, I see American dairy farmers, time and again, telling the press that the problems facing the U.S. dairy farmers are due to their own over-production, not Canada’s system,” said Ralph Dietrich, chair of Dairy Farmers of Ontario and farmer in midwestern Ontario.
“The three states of Wisconsin, New York and Michigan alone …  on a daily basis, produce more excess milk … than the entire province of Ontario produces in one day.
“They do not blame our system; they envy it.”
NAFTA talks continue this week.