The Trump administration released its list of renegotiation goals for the North American Free Trade Agreement last month, and though they’re tamer than some farmers had feared, Congress may prove a thornier foe.
Despite much talk and speculation on the future of supply management after the renegotiations, it’s not yet clear whether or not Canada’s dairy, egg, and poultry systems will be a target for elimination. The Trump administration’s laundry list didn’t specifically mention dairy, though a congressional hearing in July did. “We want to end these discriminatory practices,” said Congressman Dave Reichert, according to the Canadian Press. But pressure to demand changes to the Canadian dairy industry was bi-partisan, with Democrat Congressman Ron Kind of Wisconsin adding to a call for change.
Supply management and more recently the creation of Class 7 milk in Ontario have been bones of contention between Canada and the U.S., which only intensified when a Wisconsin milk processor announced it was no longer taking milk from 75 dairy farms in the state, leaving them with a month to find somewhere else to sell their milk.
An international trade lawyer told the CBC that the negotiation objectives were a “well-balanced approach to the modernization” of NAFTA.
The administration’s targets on agriculture were to maintain market access, expand the export market, and eliminate non-tariff barriers for ag exports, as well as tariff rate quotas, and “other unjustified measures that unfairly limit access to markets.”
U.S. ag secretary Sonny Perdue told the Western Producer earlier this year that farmers worried about the upcoming renegotiation can “relax, breathe deeply and we’re all going to be fine.” Though supply management was going to be a target during renegotiation, Perdue told the Southeast Farm Press that it’s “not our purpose to try to manage or get involved in their internal supply management regarding the dairy industry.”
But on July 14 he told Reuters that “all options should be on the table” when discussing NAFTA, and that dairy remained an area of concern.
Dairy Farmers of Canada released a statement on the same day the Trump administration released its negotiation targets. “Our initial reaction is that the U.S. objectives remain fairly broad, and there isn’t anything new.” The DFC recommended that dairy “should be excluded from the re-negotiation of NAFTA.”
Talks are scheduled to begin August 16.