Poultry farmers say trade response for the birds

They want the federal government to take a bigger-picture view of helping them to adjust to market losses

Poultry producers say they’re bracing for a big hit from trade deals and they need clarity from government.

Chicken, turkey and egg producers say a big hit is coming and the federal government needs to help them adapt.

They’re facing increased imports allowed under a series of trade deals negotiated by the federal government and say a big-picture approach is needed.

That was the message Chicken Farmers of Canada (CFC), Turkey Farmers of Can­ada (TFC), Egg Farmers of Canada (EFC) and Canadian Hatching Egg Producers (CHEP) had for the Senate agriculture committee inquiry into the impact of the new NAFTA and Pacific trade deals.

“We want to keep growing our sector but, unfortunately, the market-access concessions granted in Canada’s two recently concluded free trade agreements compromise our ability to continue our work,” said Tim Klompmaker, director with CFC, in a view shared by the other groups.

“I am hoping that we don’t need any future compensation or any mitigation measures that the government will start to recognize the fact that in order for the supply management system to continue to thrive, we cannot go into trade agreements and give up more access to our supply management sectors.”

The poultry groups want the government to create an investment tax credit program to support farmers for their investment and further improvement in their operations, a market development fund to promote Canadian-raised poultry and eggs, an import quota allocation methodology that is designed to ensure minimal market distortions, the enforcement of Canadian production standards on imports and the resolution of two major import-control loopholes — the misuse of the Duties Relief Program and the fraudulent importation of mislabelled broiler meat.

They have also told an Agriculture Canada working group examining the sector the government must also commit to ensuring that no further access to the Canadian chicken market is conceded in any future agreements, such as the ongoing discussions within the Mercosur free trade talks, nor in any future WTO negotiations, he said.

The poultry groups are “not looking for direct compensation to our farmers,” he said.

TFC executive director Phil Boyd said the trade deals will create over 20 years a “10.5-million-kilogram hit on our marketplace and reduction on our farm output and plant throughput.”

While saying the working group discussions have been productive, he also noted the “political masters” will ultimately decide on the response.

“We’re looking to the government to be honouring its commitments that have been made over time and working with our sectors to put into place the elements of a mitigation mechanism that will solve short-term and, more importantly, medium-term and long-term issues that will be confronted,” Boyd said.

CHEP chairman Jack Grey­danus said his members were disappointed in how much new access for chicken and turkey was given away in the new NAFTA because that underlines the hatchery sector. As well, the current import quota system allows product to come into the country as one block that is not spread evenly across the country.

The working group needs “to get quota spread, based on production across the country in each province or something like that to prevent distortion. This is something that we think would be a benefit over time.”

He said the poultry working group “is looking too inward. It’s focusing certainly on the agricultural file. We believe there are other government departments that could be part of this mitigation mechanism that would benefit us. That’s something that should be entertained.”

The government needs to look at ways to encourage “ways of investing and in growing poultry production across Canada,” he said.

Areas where imported products need to be held to the same standard as domestic poultry are antibiotic use regulations and feed additives, he said.

EFC director Emmanuel Destrijker said the government must ensure the poultry sector can function in the future. That means the working group must produce measures that will meet the needs of the farmers.

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