Friday, February 12, 2021

Tories were prepared to end dairy supply management

Former prime minister Stephen Harper has revealed that his government was prepared to end supply management for dairy farmers with an offer to buy out their quota.

The offer was rejected by Dairy Farmers of Canada, he told a meeting of that organization this week. It was advertised as closed to media, so Harper was candid but may not have known that DFC had allowed at least one news media person to attend.

Harper also told approximately 100 attendees that his government had prepared an analysis which showed that supply management would be in jeopardy if 18 per cent of the Canadian market was taken by imports and that if it reached 20 per cent supply management would collapse.

With the current free trade agreements already in place, imports will eventually take 18 per cent of the Canadian market and more might be ceded if and when the United States joins the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In answer to a question from a dairy farmer who wanted to know what he ought to do, Harper said get bigger and more efficient for survival.

Harper also said the Liberal government may run out of money because of its spending on COVID-19 responses and be unable to make good on its promise of $400 million per year for the next couple of years to compensate dairy farmers for the free trade deal with the United States and Mexico.

He also said the loud lobby by dairy farmers during those negotiations drew United States attention to supply-management protectionism. Until then, the U.S. focus was on gaining better trade terms with Mexico, he said.

After those negotiations, Canada had conceded up to 14 per cent of its dairy market to imports, he said. After the deals with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that maximum has risen to 18 per cent.

Also troublesome is the ban on subsidized Canadian agricultural exports, effective Jan. 1 this year.
Supply management has already been ruled an export subsidy by a disputes-settling panel of the World Trade Organization.

The Liberal government has increased the Canadian Dairy Commission's borrowing limit by $200 million and it has been buying surplus cheese that can no longer be exported. That raises a question about how long those government-backed purchases can continue and what will happen to Canadian markets for cheese, butter and skim milk powder if the commission has no capacity to buy products that can't be exported.

Is it not surprising how candid politicians can be when they think they're not going to be quoted by news media? Would that they would always be so candid with the public.