The push is on by conservative pundits and politicians, pressing the Trudeau Liberals to strike a re-negotiated NAFTA deal by scrapping agricultural supply management policies. As usual in recent years, the corporate media has swallowed this bogus argument completely, painting a lurid picture of millionaire farmers gouging consumers through supposedly “over-priced” milk and dairy products. Ending supply management, the argument goes, would give Donald Trump an easy win, save NAFTA, and cut prices – win, win, win.
The facts tell a different story. Both the USA and European countries, for various domestic reasons, offer price support programs to farmers in general and dairy producers in particular. Canada’s supply management system allows farmers (and by extension many rural communities) to survive despite low world-market prices for dairy products – caused in part by huge production increases in other countries. Canada does not need a government subsidy program, thanks to the supply management system. There’s more: a recent study by Dairy Farmers of Canada showed that overall, dairy products here are 17% less expensive than in the U.S, despite some local variations like the cheap cheese and milk British Columbians purchase in Washington state.
As the National Farmers Union reports, some farm groups in the USA are organizing to win supply management systems in their country, and to oppose Trump’s demand for dairy concessions from Canada. Throwing supply management overboard to appeal to the demagogic posturing of the President would be a costly mistake, leading Canada in the direction of bailout programs for farmers and rural communities, higher prices for lower quality dairy products, and increased imports of US milk laced with rBGH bovine growth hormones. That would be “lose-lose-lose” for everyone.
We urge readers to demand protection of supply management – don’t sell out dairy producers in Canada for the false hope of “winning” in the NAFTA talks!