USMCA latest in 'death by a thousand cuts,' dairy producers say
First, Canada’s free trade pact with the European Union gave foreign producers access to about 2.25 per cent of the country’s dairy market.
Then the Trans-Pacific Partnership opened up another 3.25 per cent of the market for the 10 countries involved in that deal.
Dairy producers say the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which increases American access to 3.59 per cent of the dairy market, deals another blow to the future of their industry.
“It seems like I’ve just been thrown under the bus,” Ottawa farmer Peter Ruiter told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday.
“It feels like every time there’s a trade deal, we just keep getting whittled away at. It’s very, very frustrating and disheartening.”
While analysts have described USMCA as not significantly different overall from its NAFTA predecessor, some consider the opening up of the dairy market as a concession on Canada’s part.
“[Prime Minister Justin Trudeau] said that he was going to protect us and he wants a vibrant Canadian dairy industry. What he’s done … is cut the legs under the whole industry,” Ruiter said.
Dairy producers across Canada are describing the USMCA’s effect on their industry in similar terms.
“It feels like a death by a thousand cuts,” Cambridge, Ont., dairy farmer Mike Bechtel told CTV Kitchener.
According to the dairy industry, the net effect of the increased American allotment will be to allow tens of thousands of tonnes of U.S. dairy products on Canadian store shelves, at the expense of shelf space currently given to Canadian-made items.
The federal government has said it will compensate affected operations, although many dairy producers say they are not particularly interested in that outcome – and a little bit skeptical they will ever see that money.
“That's a joke,” Bernard Nelson of Lilac Row Farms in Kingsville, Ont., told CTV Windsor.
“My point of view is I'd rather not have a compensation package and keep the market."
Ruiter said he had heard similar promises of support after the TPP and European deals were signed, but has never seen any compensation himself.
In addition, producers say they are concerned the continued erosion of the Canadian dairy market could discourage young people from entering the business.
“It takes the future hopefulness out of our industry,” Bechtel said.
Dairy producers say they hope Canadians will continue to purchase their products despite the increased availability of American dairy items.
“I know we’re taking one for the team, but I hope the rest of the team can stand up and help us out here,” Ruiter said.
The uncertainty felt by many producers could linger into the next decade, as the new agreement includes a clause calling for it to be reviewed after six years.
Dairy Farmers of Canada estimates that 220,000 Canadian families rely directly on the dairy industry for their livelihoods.
With reports from CTV Kitchener’s Natalie van Rooy and CTV Windsor’s Chris Campbell