I am still so angry that I could spit.
On Oct. 17, a dairy producer meeting was hosted in St. Isidore by Dairy Farmers of Ontario’s Graham Lloyd, and local MP Francis Drouin. With no bucket of tar and bag of feather waiting outside the door, it must have seemed safe to enter.
Held in the arena, in a hall I think of as “the dairy room of gloom and doom,” more chairs had to be brought in for 200 very unhappy producers who turned up after working a long day. A few poultry farmers joined in hoping to understand the mess our PM and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have created while “protecting” supply management. Just once I would love to sit there and receive good news.
News media was excluded as the hosts wanted nothing leaked. Very much a “for your ears only” sort of thing. I respect these wishes.
After addresses by Lloyd and Drouin, question period ensued with farmer after farmer voicing displeasure and trying to figure out who was to blame for not protecting us. Why support organizations if they can’t or won’t have our back? The MP kept insisting more letter writing was the answer. Really? In among all the piles of paper work already demanded?
No one had any solutions. The majority felt the DFO, Dairy Farmers of Canada and the federal government led farmers along and then threw us under the Trump-driven bus. At one point, we were outright told that dairy had been sacrificed to obtain Chapter 11, the dispute mechanism which Trudeau wanted. Had we been legalizing pot, we would have succeeded. Ag just doesn’t count in Ottawa, just a means to an end.
The compensation package, promised to be “full and fair” by the people who sold us out, is being negotiated. Should we trust them?? Then came the big BUT. it will be another, expanded Dairy Farm Investment Program that applied to few and entailed debt. Not one farmer wanted it then nor now. Take the money (and $250 million is not nearly enough) and pro rate it across our farms per quota holdings.
But this really put it all in perspective, considering how badly Canadian supply-managed farms, plus the businesses who support them, are affected. For the U.S. dairy industry, it is but a drop in the bucket.
We heard that our almost 4 % loss of quota equals less than 1 % of the milk produced in the USA. Or it is less than the milk produced by one cow in every U.S. farm. Really? And for that Trump forced Trudeau’s hand?
This had nothing to do with helping the chronic overproduction problem of American dairy farms and everything to do with egos. The big bully sitting in a white house got the boy PM to knuckle under and do as he wished to the detriment of Canadian agriculture.
Now, what happens? We have lost more market — again — plus we have countless restrictions. Counting all the trade agreements ever made by our PMs over the years, from WTO, to CETA, CPTPP and now USMCA, we have lost 18 % of our quota. Is that fair trade? And we should trust Trudeau’s and Freeland’s word that we will be fully and fairly compensated? Or that our dairy organizations will fight for what is rightfully ours? No.
In most Canadian provinces and territories, if you peacefully use a piece of property legally belonging to another person for a minimum of 10 years and they do nothing to remove you, you can claim squatter’s rights and become owner of the land.
In the case of dairy quota, farms have been using, buying, selling and trading it since about 1972 or 46 years. It is our money that has paid for it and expanded farms around it. Farmers have borrowed to buy it and many still owe on those loans, repaying them from money the quota earns. Sell your quota and in your bank’s eyes, your farm has lost value.
The “full and fair” compensation offered must, therefore, be what the going market value is and nothing less. Ottawa must buy the quota they gave away in trade deals from us or remove all access to supply managed produce from trade deals they have signed.
It is time to hire people to represent us and start a class action lawsuit against the federal government on the grounds that they have no rights to OUR quota.
I’m mad as hell and refuse to take it anymore.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.