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Dairy Farmers of Canada Responds to Supply Management Policy Paper

DFC Provides Industry Perspective into Most Recent Conference Board of Canada’s Policy Paper

By , Farms.com

In an effort to spur more debate into Canada’s dairy supply management system, the Conference Board of Canada in partnership with the George Morris Centre have been releasing a series of policy papers examining different aspects of dairy supply management policy in Canada. The most recent report released on Friday, entitled “Canada’s Supply-Managed Dairy Policy: How Do We Compare?” focused on comparing and contrasting the experiences of major dairy producing countries, looking at the various policy models that exist – with Canada being in a unique position in the world.  The report was critical of Canada’s supply management system, suggesting that Canada needs to re-examine the rational of the country’s supply management policy.

While such criticism isn’t something new to the dairy industry, advocates for the industry including the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) continue to play a critical role in being the voice of dairy farmers from across the country to defend and promote supply management. Since part of DFC’s mandate is to ensure economic sustainability for dairy farming families across the country, it’s no surprise that the DFC would want to respond to the policy paper. In an interview with Farms.com, Thérèse Beaulieu, Assistant Director of Strategic Communications for Dairy Farmers of Canada shares some insights into the most recent policy paper.

During the interview, DFC spokesperson Thérèse Beaulieu explained some key points that were highlighted in the policy paper contrasting it with the industry’s perspective. One of the points that Beaulieu emphasizes is the shift in the dairy industry globally, noting how it has become increasingly more volatile and has caused hardships for other dairy sectors around the world.

“Just like our banking system we have a solid and stable Canadian dairy industry that is withstanding the volatility that is plaguing, and sometimes crippling the dairy sector in various countries around the globe. The paper acknowledges that increased and reoccurring volatility is having severe effects on the dairy sector globally. The George Morris (GMC) Centre report highlights this fact – and dairy farmers in Canada are proud of this achievement.   The GMC also observe that with dairy supply management, dairy farmers here do not rely on government’s fiscal support, unlike in other countries”, said Beaulieu.

The policy paper claimed that Canada’s supply management system has impeded the success of free –trade agreements. However, while supply management may be a reoccurring topic brought up during free trade talks, it hasn’t stopped Canada from perusing free trade deals.

“Supply management hasn’t stood in the way of Canada’s ability to successfully negotiate trade agreements. Since 1986, Canada has concluded NAFTA and bilateral agreements with Jordan, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Chile, Israel and EFTA (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein),” said Beaulieu.

The policy paper also failed to address some of the market shifts in some of the countries that were compared. For example, the New Zealand Dairy Board is now owned by Fonterra, which currently owns over 92% of the milk production for the country. Also, in relation to the U.S., total taxpayer support for dairy production is around $0.31 a litre – even though it does not always make its way to farmers. These two examples highlight that a “perfect” competitive market doesn’t really exist.

The supply management debate is a healthy one. It provides dairy industry with an opportunity to educate others, not only the importance of upholding the policy but also about dairy farming in general. The Conference Board of Canada’s policy paper is informative and credible and provides a foundation of understanding into the different types of dairy policy modal that exist around the world - which is something to be mindful of when critiquing Canada’s policy stance.

Note from the Editor: Thank you to Dairy Farmers of Canada spokesperson Thérèse Beaulieu for providing an enhanced understanding into some of the aspects that weren’t addressed in the paper “Canada’s Supply-Managed Dairy Policy: How Do We Compare?”. Providing an industry point of view will help Farms.com readers understand the complexity into dairy policies worldwide.

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