Feds new dairy compensation vow

Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau again committed to offering compensation to dairy farmers as a result of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The commitment was made during a speech at the Dairy Farmers of Canada annual policy conference held in Ottawa Feb. 4-6.

Telling the audience that supply management is a “social contract” that needs protecting, Bibeau said the trade deal, alongside the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership deal were important to continue cohesive trade between nations.

Those deals opened up 3.25 percent of the overall dairy market to international competition, with USMCA rising the number to 8.4 percent.

“Obviously, everything related to the free trade agreements that we have signed was very disturbing for (dairy producers) in the recent years,” Bibeau said afterward.

“Now we know what we have in front of us and they already know about the compensation for the first two agreements (CETA and CPTPP). The compensation for the new-NAFTA will come soon as well.”

“We’re committed to protecting supply management, the system and to make these compensations.”

Bibeau refrained from putting a timeline on when further compensation could be offered. The 2019 federal budget promised $3.9 billion in funding for eligible dairy, poultry and egg farmers to deal with impacts of CETA and CPTPP.

“In terms of order, I want to complete, make the decision and go forward with different financial mechanisms for the … producers of eggs and poultry and the processors as well. Then we will move forward for all of them for the new NAFTA,” she said.

Given USMCA has not yet been ratified by the Canadian government, it is not realistic to expect compensation to be included in the 2020 budget.

Pierre Lampron, president of DFC, said he was happy to have a commitment from the government for compensation.

“It depends on when the ratification will be in Canada, the timing depends on that, so I’m not sure if it will be fast or slow,” he said.

During her speech, Bibeau also spoke of the “unacceptable actions” of “extremist” groups protesting on dairy farms, telling the audience it was a concern for her.

She also spoke optimistically about the future of the industry, encouraging innovation and more inclusion of youth and women in the industry.

Lampron said it was important for the industry to work together to meet challenges.

“The new generation, we need to promote more how we produce, how good we are for the environment, how (well) we take care of our animals. We need to show the population, it will be good for the future,” he said, adding it’s important to continue to have good engagement with the federal government.

Overall, 9.2 billion litres of dairy production took place in Canada in 2019, bringing in $7.6 billion in revenue. Consumption of milk and cheese dropped by one percent and consumption of butter increased 13 percent.

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