After enduring months of withering fire from Donald Trump’s bombastic Twitter feed, Canada’s dairy industry waded into the fray on Monday by accusing the U.S. president of wanting to put Canadian farmers out of business.
Yet even as it did so, some in this country were calling for major reforms to the very system of protections for Canada’s dairy, egg and chicken farmers that first ignited—and has continued to sustain—Trump’s anger: supply management.
Trump’s most recent salvo came in a series of tweets from Singapore late Sunday, where he again blasted Canada for charging a 270 per cent tariff on U.S. dairy imports, and levelled more personal attacks at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Dairy Farmers of Canada president Pierre Lampron, which represents Canada’s roughly 12,000 dairy producers, fired back Monday by blasting Trump’s “personal attacks on our prime minister” and defending its supply-managed system.
“Canadian dairy farmers and their families are concerned by the sustained attacks by President Trump with an aim to wiping out dairy farmers here at home,” Lampron added.
The comments came as MPs from various parties followed what has become a tradition in Canada: declaring their unwavering support for farmers and the oft-maligned supply management system, which was first established in the 1970s.
Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay was grilled by the NDP during question period after Trudeau indicated on NBC’s “Meet the Press” last week that the government was open to relaxing the system as part of a new NAFTA deal.
“Our government strongly supports and is fully committed to maintaining the supply management system,” MacAulay replied. “The prime minister has indicated this clearly … and our negotiators at the NAFTA table have also indicated this clearly.”
Yet some say it is past time to phase out the system, which limits dairy, egg and chicken production in Canada and imposes steep tariffs on foreign imports beyond a certain amount to keep the market from becoming saturated.
For dairy products, which has been the focus of Trump’s anger, those tariffs range from nearly 300 per cent for excess imports of butter and cream to 270 per cent for certain dairy powders to 240 per cent for cheese, whole milk and yogurt.
“No one wants to look like they’re conceding anything to Trump,” said Martha Hall Findlay, a former Liberal MP and leadership candidate who is currently president of the Calgary-based Canada West Foundation and a longtime advocate of ending supply management.
“But this is a huge opportunity. We should actually move beyond supply management. It’s good for Canada, it’s good for the dairy industry.”
Proponents of the system say it protects Canadian dairy, egg and chicken farmers from damaging price fluctuations in a manner that’s comparable to the way other countries support their agricultural sectors with subsidies.
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