The federal government has promised compensation for market access conceded in trade negotiations
By Diego Flammini
Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) is calling on the federal government to come through with its promised compensation for domestic market access conceded to other countries during trade negotiations.
The organization passed a motion at its annual general meeting to lobby the federal government for more transparency when it comes to payment schedules.
Between Canada’s trade arrangements with Europe in 2017 (CETA), and Trans-Pacific nations the year after (CPTPP) and the newly enacted deal with the United States and Mexico (CUSMA), by 2024 about 18 per cent of dairy products in Canada will have originated in other countries.
In August 2019, Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced $1.75 billion in direct payments over eight years to compensate for Canada’s concessions in the trade agreements.
Ottawa distributed $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.
But since the first round of payments, farmers have been left in the dark about when future payments might come or how much they may be for, said David Wiens, vice-president of DFC.
“We have seven years left and we haven’t heard anything since the first payment was made,” he told Farms.com. “The expectation given to us by government is that there would be a schedule of payments over those years but, as of now, we don’t know when the next payments are coming.”
DFC is hoping one cabinet minister in particular can spearhead Ottawa’s response to the organization’s request.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland helped negotiate CETA, CPTPP and CUSMA during her time as foreign affairs minister.
Therefore, she should work with her fellow ministers to ensure Canadian dairy farmers are compensated in a timely fashion, Wiens said.
“We’re asking Deputy Prime Minister Freeland, who oversaw the concessions on our dairy sector, to use her influence at the table to convince her colleagues that it’s time to respect the commitments made by government,” he said.
A second round of payments could be coming soon, said Minister Bibeau.
“Our government continues to stand behind our dairy farmers and a strong supply management system in Canada, which ensures the viability of our family farms and the vitality of our rural areas,” she told Farms.com in an emailed statement. “Our commitment to make available $1.75 billion over eight years for full and fair compensation is firm – including compensation this fiscal year.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the government to shift gears to provide timely assistance to those in need, she said.