B.C. dairy farmers are disappointed after a new trilateral free trade agreement was reached between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, saying it will weaken the industry.
The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, announced late Sunday after 14 months of negotiations, includes greater access to the Canadian market by American dairy farmers.
Sixth generation dairy farmer Devan Toop of Chilliwack in the Lower Mainland said the deal will do nothing to help struggling U.S. dairy farmers, nor will it help consumers on this side of the border with lower prices.
“Prices of milk or cheese will not go down because the processors and grocers will absorb the margin,” Toop said on social media soon after word of the deal was released.
“Canadian dairy farmers will now be paid less for their milk as processors import product from the states. [U.S. President Donald] Trump has turned the absurdity of American dairy, a system that needs reform to survive, into a talking point to help Republicans in the upcoming byelection.”
Toop was asked about Trump and supply management during a recent farm tour, and he said Americans need supply management as much as Canada needs to keep it.
“The problem with their milk system isn’t having enough places to put it, it is that they are over-producing on such a grand scale,” he said. “They are dumping milk left, right and centre.”
Clarke Gourlay, dairy farmer and co-owner of Morningstar Farm in Parksville on Vancouver Island, said the new deal will affect milk production.
“It definitely means that we will be producing less Canadian milk, which is not good for Canadian dairy farmers,” Goular said. “It means that Canadian consumers will be purchasing more milk produced on environmentally unsustainable farms with illegal Mexican labour.”
He added that the deal allows for “a lot more substandard milk for the Canadian consumer.”
“We’ve already given away a portion of our market to Europe, to Asia and now to the United States,” he said.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada has said the USMCA would give U.S. farmers greater access to Canada’s dairy industry, worth about 3.6 per cent of Canada’s current dairy market.
The Canadian dairy sector employs more than 220,000 Canadians and contributes close to $20 billion a year to Canada’s gross domestic product.