Some Ontario dairy farmers say they are concerned that supply management could be on the table in ongoing talks over the North American Free Trade Agreement that includes Canada, the United States and Mexico.
But other farmers are optimistic. Fred Hopkins, at Bentinck in Grey County, said he is keeping an eye on the deal, but isn’t concerned.
“I feel very confident in our program here, the way it works,” Hopkins said. “If you talk to most of the American dairy producers, and we have a lot of friends in the States, they would love to have our system. One thing we do have — people in Quebec who are very radical, very passionate, and they really believe in our system. When they’re on your side in something like this, it really helps a lot.”
“So far, the (Canadian) government is saying all the right things,” said John Velthuis, an Eastern Ontario dairy farmer near Ottawa.
The NAFTA Agreement came into force in 1994. While there is some concern that Canada might deal away supply management, it won’t matter if an agreement isn’t signed. Recently, U.S. president Donald Trump said he might have to pull the U.S. out of NAFTA altogether if a good deal can’t be reached for American workers. Trump pulled the U.S. out of the yet-to-be ratified Trans-Pacific Partnership, the would-be world’s largest trade deal, in January.
At an American jobs event in Wisconsin in April, Trump said he wants “fair trade with all of our trading partners and that includes Canada. Because in Canada, some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers. It’s a terrible thing that happened to the farmers of Wisconsin. We’re going to call Canada, and we’re going to say what happened, and they might give us an answer, but we’re going to get the solution.”
At the time, Canada approved a new class of Canadian milk to close a purchasing window by Canadian processors of U.S. made ultra-filtered milk, a protein liquid concentrate used in cheese making. The new class of milk abruptly ended a niche market for about 75 Wisconsin dairy farmers.