By Tom Collins
OTTAWA — The federal government announced last month that supply-managed farmers will get $3.9 billion in compensation due to trade deals, but no one knows exactly how that money will be doled out.
The money is for dairy, poultry and egg farmers who lost some of their market in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) deal. The new NAFTA deal is not part of the funding.
The CETA trade deal gave away 4 % of Canada’s cheese market, while the CPTPP gave away 3.25 % of the entire dairy market.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario chair Murray Sherk said dairy farmers won’t see all of that $3.9 billion. He said about $1.5 billion is for quota preservation, which protects against reduction in quota value when quota is sold.
“It’s questionable whether that would ever come forward,” he said. Excluding money for the egg and poultry sectors, in the end, the dairy industry could see about $1.85 billion, he said.
The government is in the process of giving out $250 million in CETA compensation to dairy farmers, but that program has come under fire. The first phase filled up quickly, and farmers who tried to apply hours after the funding window opened were unable to apply. The system was also criticized as farmers who had made no upgrades were not eligible for money.
One Ontario dairy farm family had just finished building a new $2.7-million barn. The family applied for the first phase of the funding, but was rejected. They are now going through the application process for the second phase. Sonia Martin has already spent about 20 hours filling out paperwork, and had to hire an accountant to help answer some of the questions, such as how much money per cow per hectolitre is the farm making because of the new milking parlour.
“The paperwork is crazy,” she said. “It’s ridiculous. The paperwork is so huge and time-consuming, and I’m not even sure I’m going to get (any money).”
Sherk said the federal government has not yet determined the process for giving out money this time around, but the government is aware farmers are upset at the process for previous compensation packages.
“A lot of our farmers have told us (the government) should minimize the administration and essentially send (the money) direct to farmers based on quota holdings,” he said, adding that it’s important the money isn’t seen as a subsidy. “This is compensation for losses of imports that the government has given away.”