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Hands off dairy, say farmers across several Trans-Pacific Partnership countries

Yesterday, the Citizens Trade Campaign — a U.S. coalition of environmental, labor, consumer, family farm, religious and other civil society groups — reported that farmers and labour groups across the Pacific region are demanding that dairy be taken out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement altogether. Removing all barriers to trade in milk and milk products is a major demand of New Zealand and the United States in the TPP negotiations. But U.S., Canadian and Japanese dairy farmers and workers agree this is not in the interests of family farmers in any of the participating countries.

In an article posted to the CTC website, Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), says “U.S. trade negotiators should not force other countries in the TPP to dismantle supply management programs, especially as efforts are currently underway to implement a similar system in the United States.”

James P. Hoffa, general president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, added that, “Without a strong Labor Chapter and protections for dairy workers throughout the supply chain, the TPP should not be signed.” He said the Teamsters “join the dairy farmers of North America and Japan and throughout the region, and demand that dairy be taken ‘off the table’ in the TPP talks.”

Teamsters Canada, representing about 6,000 dairy industry workers in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, issued a statement last week reminding the Canadian government that supply management, through which Canadian demand for milk is met by carefully regulated Canadian supplies, has survived several trade agreements before. New Zealand and U.S. negotiators want to get rid of supply management for dairy in Canada so that their large-scale producers can dump excess product on the Canadian market, undercutting Canadian farmers and undermining the health of Canadian farming communities.

“Like the dairy farmers and processors with whom we work, Teamsters Canada expects the government will defend the stability of the Canadian dairy industry, which supports over 200,000 good, middle-class Canadian jobs,” says the Teamsters Canada statement.

The CTC article mentions that the Mexican dairy industry organization CANILEC also thinks finished milk products should not be part of the TPP, and quotes Japanese farmers who also fear for the impact of the TPP on local farmers. Japan has been allowed to join the TPP negotiations but will not be at the table until mid-way through a planned July round whose location is still to be determined.

Fujio Yomada, chairperson of Hokkaido Farmer’s Union, which represents 27,000 farmers in the agriculture-intensive northernmost portion of Japan, said, “If Japan participates in the TPP and abolishes import tariffs… dairy farmers will be forced to give up farming, dairy workers will lose their jobs and their communities will be ruined… TPP negotiations endanger food sovereignty, coexistence of diversified agriculture, food safety and stable food supplies. We can never accept it.”

To read the CTC article and learn more about the U.S. coalition fighting the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, click here.