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Trade deals loom for dairy farmers

But compensation packages remain elusive

International trade agreements continue to weigh on the minds of the province’s dairy producers.

The Dairy Farmers of Manitoba held the first of its fall meetings on October 11 in Elkhorn, where conversations frequently turned to the looming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.

“There was nothing good in this TPP agreement from a dairy perspective,” said David Wiens, chair of DFM.

The TPP sees 12 of the Pacific Rim countries, excluding China, come together to lower both non-tariff and tariff barriers to trade.

According to Wiens, revenue losses for the Canadian dairy sector caused by TPP for having the market displaced on an ongoing basis have been estimated at $250 million a year.

The finalized TPP agreement was signed in February 2016 and is currently awaiting ratification to enter into force.

Wiens says CETA, a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, will be yet another blow to the Canadian dairy industry.

“The CETA agreement would increase European cheese access to the Canadian market by 17,000 tonnes, which by our estimates are another $95 million to $116 million in lost revenue,” Wiens said.

The federal government says it hopes CETA will be implemented next year.

In the meantime, DFM has been actively lobbying the government to commit to a mitigation package.

“We approach this from the expectation that both of these agreements will come into effect. But, to that end, we have been lobbying our government for a mitigation package that would include a compensation package for some of the revenue lost,” Wiens said.

The previous federal government had proposed a compensation package for Canadian dairy farmers if both these trade agreements were to come to fruition, which included an income guarantee of $2.4 billion to be paid out over a number of years, a quota guarantee of $1.5 billion, a market development initiative and a processor modernization fund of $450 million.

“We have been lobbying the new government, in terms of honouring something that had been committed to as part of that agreement, but we have not yet received confirmation yet,” Wiens said. “However, I don’t think our request is falling on deaf ears. We believe this is something that they are working on and they will create a compensation package.”

Despite the outcome of either trade agreement, Wiens says DFM is fairly confident in Canadian consumers sticking with Canadian-made products.

“During the time of the trade agreements, particularly the TPP, we did run some surveys and it was really satisfying to see how Canadians want to have a Canadian dairy product, produced by Canadian dairy farmers. That seems to have overwhelming support,” Wiens said. “To have that kind of support from Canadians, I think bodes well for us as dairy farmers producing milk for the Canadian dairy market.”

About the author

Reporter

Jennifer Paige is a reporter centred in southwestern Manitoba. She previously wrote for the agriculture-based magazine publisher, Issues Ink and was the sole-reporter at the Minnedosa Tribune for two years prior to joining the Manitoba Co-operator.

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