Supply managed sectors fight back as TPP rhetoric heats up

Canadian dairy, poultry and egg farmers are fighting back against what they call an “increasing amount of rhetoric and misinformation” surrounding the country’s supply managed agricultural industries.

In a Sept. 30 new release, the organizations that represent Canada’s five supply managed farm industries say poultry, egg and dairy farmers have “endured a long-running and concerted attack on the system” that provides high quality, low cost products for Canadian consumers.

Their message comes as Canadian trade negotiators are gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, this week in hopes of securing a multinational trade deal with 11 other Pacific Rim nations.

Ottawa’s support for supply managed industries is assumed to be one of the main hurdles standing in the way of a successful Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

It is widely believed that Canada will be required to grant some trade concessions to other TPP countries that are lobbying for greater access to Canadian markets for supply managed goods, especially dairy products.

“As the pressure mounts to conclude TPP negotiations in Atlanta this week, Canada’s dairy, poultry and egg farmers are hearing an increasing amount of rhetoric and misinformation regarding supply management in the media,” said the news release, issued jointly by Dairy Farmers of Canada, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Egg Farmers of Canada, Turkey Farmers of Canada and Canadian Hatching Egg Producers.

“As a result, (supply managed) farmers would like an opportunity to address these myths.”

The five organizations, which represent nearly 17,000 Canadian farmers and roughly $11.3 billion in farm cash receipts, dispute suggestions that supply management results in higher food prices for Canadian consumers.

They cite a recent survey by consumer analyst Nielsen that concluded Canadian consumers pay an average of $1.30 per litre for milk, compared to $1.83 in New Zealand and $1.15 in the United States.

“(Supply managed) farmers do not set retail prices,” the news release states.

“Retailers and restaurants have always charged what they feel the market will bear…. The share the farmer receives (for supply managed products) … typically only represents a tiny fraction of the final price.”

The supply management organizations also dispute suggestions:

• That Canada’s supply managed farm industries are subsidized by the government.

• That supply managed industries are preventing a TPP deal from being successfully negotiated.

“The Government of Canada has successfully negotiated 12 trade agreements with 43 countries since 1994, (all of which) have opened up new markets, improved trade rules and preserved supply management,” the organizations argue.

“We are confident that the government will be able to do it again at the TPP.”

Earlier this week, federal agriculture minister Gerry Ritz hinted that Canadian negotiators might be prepared to offer other TPP nations greater access to Canada’s supply managed markets.

Canadian farmers and processors whose incomes are affected by a TPP deal would be offered compensation by Ottawa, he added.

“If there is a loss on your farm or the processing side, you will be compensated,” Ritz said during a Sept. 30 debate in Ottawa.

He did not rule out the possibility that more imported goods might be allowed access to Canada’s regulated supply managed markets, but he said a re-elected Conservative government would retain “the pillars of supply management.”

When asked if TPP negotiations posed a risk to Canada’s dairy, egg and poultry farmers, Ritz suggested supply managed industries have nothing to fear.

“Not from this government,” he told reporters following the Ottawa debate.

“They know we have their back.”

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