Wisconsin dairy farmer says supply management is not the problem, overproduction is

Farmer protest on Parliament HillWhile the Canadian Parliament is in the process of actively ratifying the Canada United States Mexico Agreement, a U.S. dairy farmer is visiting Ottawa to tell farmers that access to Canadian markets in the new NAFTA will not solve the woes of American farmers.

In the U.S., major dairy industry lobby groups have been urging the swift passage of the CUSMA though the U.S. Congress. Jim Goodman, President of the National Family Farm Coalition says, however, that they miss the point: it is American overproduction that hurts American farmers, not Canada’s control on imports and its supply management system.   

"President Trump says U.S. farmers will be the prime beneficiaries of NAFTA.  I say, no. Benefits to farmers will be fleeting at best.  While there will be some initial benefit to U.S. dairy farmers, 3.6% of the Canadian market will do nothing to reduce our overproduction. In effect, it will further the false idea that we can export our way out of depressed prices."

According to Canadian trade strategist Peter Clark, between 2007 and 2017, U.S. milk production increased 12 per cent; USDA projects a 42 per cent growth in milk exports. Dumping of milk due to overproduction is common in the U.S dairy industry.

Goodman adds that supply management should not be eroded in Canada, but imported to the U.S.

“If President Trump really wants to help farmers – and consumers, the environment, and taxpayers – he would lobby for a U.S. supply management program.Canada’s supply management program guarantees farmers a fair price and guarantees consumers adequate food supplies grown locally – with no taxpayer subsidies required.”

Goodman was meeting with members of the National Farmers’ Union and the Council of Canadians.

Jan Slomp, former President of the National Farmers' Union, says that it is not a pitched battle between U.S. and Canadian farmers, but about how to protect family farms everywhere. Successive trade agreements have resulted in the uberization of the family dairy farm, he says.

“Trade agendas are chasing dairy farmers on both sides of the border into higher productivity, over production, dumping and losses.  Dairy farmers in the U.S. and Canada stand in solidarity with one another to point at their common problem of a political agenda that is destroying communities and honest livelihoods.”

Maude Barlow, Honorary Chairperson of the Council of Canadians says that local family farms are vital for healthy food and vibrant communities.

“NAFTA and company have quietly eroded the fabric of the Canadian family farm pushing us into intensive factory farms.  This is terrible for the health of our rural communities but also around the healthiness of what is put on our plate.  We must support our local farmers and the kind of agriculture which is sustainable for our planet and for our future.”

Read more about how the new NAFTA will affect farmers and healthy food.

Photo:  Farmers protest the TransPacific Partnership on Parliament Hill.