President Donald Trump continues to characterize NAFTA as a “complete and total disaster” for the United States. Tuesday, in a speech to Wisconsin workers, he singled out the dairy industry as a prime example of that disaster, saying that Canada’s supply management system, where government regulations ensure that the supply never exceeds the demand, amounts to a “one-sided deal” that benefits only Canada.
Some Canadians agree with Trump, CBC News reports.
Ironically, that supply management system was modeled after one created by New Deal President Franklin Roosevelt. Many in the agriculture sector see it as a vestige of another age.
Martha Hall Findlay, the president of the Canada West Foundation, is one of them.
She is calling for the eradication of the current supply management system.
Hall Findlay contends the system is benefiting no one anymore — not consumers or producers on either side of the border. She says it means higher food prices for Canadians while it prevents producers from expanding into foreign markets because, as Trump confirmed in Wisconsin, there is a widespread perception that the Canadian government gives the agricultural sector unfair advantages in the domestic market that destroy the potential for trade deals.
“We go to the table with Donald Trump right now with one hand, one arm, tied behind our backs,” said Hall Findlay.
She says dismantling the current supply management system would be a boon to all concerned — even though there might be some short-term pain for some in the sector, who she says, could be compensated for any losses deemed a direct consequence the new economic reality.
“Nobody wants to hurt Canadian dairy farmers … It can be done over time, certainly in terms of compensation,” she said.
Other voices in Canadian agriculture are not so willing to facilitate change.
David Weins, who heads the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, says the Canadian industry can’t be held responsible for issues that are American in origin.
“We have not contributed or created problems for them. I think they need to look within their own industry in terms of how they could better respond to the marketplace that they are in,” said Weins.
He steadfastly defends Canada’s supply management system, saying it shields Canadian farmers from the expansions and retractions of the food market.
“In Canada, supply management is literally about matching supply with demand, and for us that avoids over production and it reduces the impact of the devastating market fluctuations that we do see right around the world, including in the U.S.” said Weins.
Weins’s support was echoed by the Dairy Farmers of Canada, which said Tuesday it believed the federal government would continue to “defend” the dairy industry.
Weins, who did not offer any advice on renegotiating NAFTA given Trump’s insistence upon changing the trade rules, says the problems facing U.S. dairy farmers were all created by overproduction.
“Simply put, the U.S., and for that matter, for the last of years, right around the world, there has been too much milk produced,” he said.”This oversupply in the U.S. is especially a challenge where there is a lack of processing capacity. All of those things come together to create very tough times.”