The federal government promised to provide $1.75 billion in direct payments over eight years
By Diego Flammini
The federal government needs to keep its promise about providing compensation to dairy farmers for domestic markets conceded during trade negotiations, Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) said.
DFC president Pierre Lampron and vice-president David Wiens participated in a virtual press conference Tuesday morning to ask Ottawa for transparency when it comes to promised payments.
“The federal government did announce in August 2019 that the sector would receive $1.75 billion over eight years in relation to CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) and CPTPP (Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership),” Wiens said.
Between those two trade agreements and CUSMA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement), Canada will forfeit about 18 per cent of its domestic dairy market by 2024.
Ottawa distributed a one-time payment of $345 million to Canadian dairy producers in 2019. A farmer with 80 dairy cows received a payment of $28,000 in the first year. Payments are also based on production quotas.
DFC has had communication with Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau. But no concrete plans have been made available yet, Wiens said.
“There were some hints at something coming, but we have heard nothing,” Wiens said. “We did appreciate having heard the compensation being highlighted in the throne speech earlier on, and yet we’re a bit concerned because a lot of times there are these commitments spoken to, but we don’t see the action.”
DFC is aware it’s asking the federal government to come through with compensation payments as the country navigates the COVID-19 pandemic.
But the industry isn’t asking for anything more than what the Trudeau government promised.
“We haven’t asked for compensation as a result of the pandemic,” Wiens said. “We were focused on production to ensure that Canadians would have sufficient milk and dairy products available to them.”
The federal government reaffirmed its commitment to providing compensation and provided a timeline of when producers could receive payments.
"Our commitment to make $1.75 billion over eight years for full and fair compensation is form - including compensation this fiscal year," Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau told Farms.com in an emailed statement. "Because of COVID-19, we prioritized across government the need to provide timely assistance to those in need. To help dairy farmers deal with surpluses, we permanently increased the borrowing capacity of the Canadian Dairy Commission by $200 million and launched the $50 million Food Surplus Rescue Program."