OPINION: Compensation for trade deals to provide much-needed certainty for dairy farmers

Dairy Farmers of Canada 

AFTER nearly a year under the shadow of a global pandemic, Canadians are now more aware than ever before of the importance of self sufficiency in our food production. Canadian dairy farmers are a huge part of our food security: day in and day out, they safely and sustainably produce high-quality milk right here within our own borders, which is then transformed by some 500 local processors into thousands of dairy products that Canadian consumers have come to know and love.

Rather than looking outward for our food, a strong Canadian dairy sector means we can be less dependent on foreign countries to meet our food requirements.

One of the ways Canadian dairy farmers ensure a consistent supply of milk at stable prices is through the agricultural framework of supply management. Under supply management, farmers work collaboratively with milk marketing boards, processors and the Canadian Dairy Commission to ensure enough milk production to meet domestic demand.

Despite the important contribution our sector makes towards the economy and food security, our system of supply management was weakened by recent trade deals with Europe, the Asia-Pacific Region and the U.S. and Mexico – CETA, CPTPP and CUSMA, respectively. These agreements all provide foreign countries with greater access to the Canadian dairy market.

The result is that by 2024, 18% of our domestic dairy production will have been outsourced to foreign producers, who will supply milk for imported dairy products that wind up on Canadian store shelves.

Dairy farmers are innovative and eager to invest in their farms to better prepare us for the increased competition we will face from imports.

That’s why the government’s announcement on compensation to dairy farmers for the harmful effects of these trade deals is essential, as it provides us with much needed clarity and certainty in an unpredictable market. Dairy farmers across the country now have a better opportunity to make those investments to find efficiencies.

Prior to the announcement, all MPs in the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion backing compensation for the supply managed sectors, including dairy, and we acknowledge their support on this file.

While this announcement provides recognition of the significance of the foreign competition we face, there is still one key outstanding item in our workplan with the federal government – the full and fair compensation promised for CUSMA. We look forward to engaging with the government on that, so that we can continue the crucial work of feeding Canadians with safe, high-quality, nutritious food, produced here in Canada.