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The new NAFTA and Canadian dairy

With the new NAFTA, small farmers and consumers suffered major losses as their interests were sacrificed to big American agricultural interests. While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to protect the sector, in the end, Canada gave in to pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump who repeatedly targeted Canada’s supply management system.

Supply management is a system in which the Canadian government produces licences that allow farmers’ production quotas of dairy, poultry or eggs. It also controls the price and taxes of imports into Canada. This process guarantees a sustainable living for farmers and ensures that small local farms are not flooded by agriculture from large mega farms.

These changes in the new NAFTA will lead to an influx of agricultural products from the U.S., including U.S. dairy that may come from cows that have been injected with genetically engineered bovine growth hormones to increase their milk production. There are no labelling requirements for milk that comes from rBGH cows, so consumers will not know what they are drinking.

Canada has already surrendered market access in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations.

  • In CETA, Canada has expanded access to its market for cheeses from five per cent to nine per cent.
  • The CPTPP will grant tariff-free access to 3.25 per cent of Canada’s current dairy market, 2.3 per cent for eggs, 2.1 per cent for chicken, 2 per cent for turkey and 1.5 per cent for broiler hatching eggs in the first five years, with the amounts rising in future years.

The U.S. industrialized farming industry is heavily subsidized. Allowing more market access to U.S. farms would mean Canadian small farmers would be in competition with much bigger producers.

The Council of Canadians opposes ratification of a new NAFTA that erodes our supply management system and puts our food sovereignty at risk.

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Getting it Right: A people’s guide to renegotiating NAFTA