Attacks now increasing on supply managed commodities: Island Farmer

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Now that U.S. President Barak Obama has gained the fast track authority he was seeking to reach a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the attention is now turning to what Canada must do to be included in the final deal.

When the talks began, Canada was on the sidelines, largely because of the country’s support for supply managed sectors like dairy and poultry. When Canada was invited to join the discussions, many people began to wonder if the clock was ticking on the supply management system.

Such talk seems to surface every time Canada is at the trade table and the federal government has been saying all the right things about their resolve to protect the system. However, a recent front page story in The Globe and Mail should rightfully cause the industry to wonder just how ‘solid” that support is.

The story quotes unnamed sources as saying Ottawa has developed a compensation package that would kick in if the deal allowed additional dairy and poultry products into the country. It is not proposing the end of the system, but it would definitely be a major crack.

The same issue of “Canada’s National Newspaper” included a story with the headline “Dairy industry a rich, closed club.” It quotes John Manley, a former federal Liberal cabinet minister, who is now the president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives– talk about your rich and closed clubs.

He called supply management “the last Soviet-style economic regime on the planet.” The article calls the nation’s dairy farmers “well organized, politically active and well known in their local communities. They are also in “virtually every rural riding across the country, ready to dial up their MP when they are not happy.”

The inference is, of course, that all of these are bad things. Are we supposed to believe the Canadian Council of Chief Executives has never tried to influence government policy or that nobody in an urban riding has ever contacted their MP?

The article points out yet again that, in addition to the pressure from countries like the United States and New Zealand to get rid of supply management, the Canadian dairy and poultry industries must deal with attacks launched closer to home.

For the president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, it is a familiar dance. In a rallying cry to producers, Wally Smith said he expects the attacks to ramp up as the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks enter the final stages. The organization has launched its own public relations campaign called the “Mittle-Down Effect, intended to show the economic benefits of the industry to Canadians. They have also started an on-line petition in support of the industry, which already has over 2,200 signatures.

Hopefully that will continue to grow as Canadians begin to realize they have a system that provides them with reasonable prices for milk and poultry products, while at the same time ensuring producers receive their cost of production.

Andy Walker

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