Federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau again committed to offering compensation to dairy farmers as a result of the CUSMA (Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement) deal.
She told an audience at the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) annual policy conference in Ottawa Feb. 4-6, that supply management is a “social contract” that needs protecting.
Why it matters: Dairy farmers have long been asking the federal government to compensate them for the increased access given away in CUSMA.
Bibeau said the trade deal, alongside the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) deal were important to continue cohesive trade between nations.
Those deals opened up 3.25 per cent of the overall dairy market to international competition, with CUSMA rising the number to 8.4 per cent.
“Obviously, everything related to the free trade agreements that we have signed was very disturbing for (dairy producers) in the recent years,” Bibeau said afterward. “Now we know what we have in front of us and they already know about the compensation for the first two agreements (CETA and CPTPP). The compensation for the new-NAFTA will come soon as well.”
“We’re committed to protecting supply management, the system and to make these compensations.”
Bibeau refrained from putting a timeline on when further compensation could be offered. The 2019 federal budget promised $3.9 billion in funding for eligible dairy, poultry and egg farmers to deal with impacts of CETA and CPTPP.
“In terms of order, I want to complete, make the decision and go for- ward with different financial mechanisms for the… producers of eggs and poultry and the processors as well. Then we will move forward for all of them for the new NAFTA,” she said.
Given CUSMA has not yet been ratified by the Canadian government, it is not realistic to expect compensation to be included in the 2020 budget.
Pierre Lampron, president of DFC, said he was happy to have a commitment from the government for compensation.
“It depends on when the ratification will be in Canada, the timing depends on that, so I’m not sure if it will be fast or slow,” he said.
During her speech, Bibeau also spoke of the “unacceptable actions” of “extremist” groups protesting on dairy farms, telling the audience it was a concern for her.
She also spoke optimistically about the future of the industry, encouraging innovation and more inclusion of youth and women in the industry.
Lampron said it was important for the industry to work together to meet challenges.
“The new generation, we need to promote more how we produce, how good we are to the environment, how (well) we take care of our animals. We need to show the population, it will be good for the future,” he said, adding it’s important to continue to have good engagement with the federal government.
Overall, 9.2 billion litres of dairy production took place in Canada over 2019, bringing in $7.6 billion in revenue. Consumption of milk and cheese dropped by one per cent, yogurt consumption dropped four per cent and consumption of butter increased 13 per cent.
The average litre of milk in Canada was $1.56, placing in the middle of other countries. The high water mark was Norway ($2.86) and the lowest price was Poland, at $0.83.
Sustained growth in consumption of higher-fat dairy products, and continued production investments are expected over the course of 2020.