Dairy farmers launch new supply-management defense

Their system of revenue under renewed jabs from various angles, Canada’s dairy farmers have compiled their retorts into a new online campaign.

Dairy Farmers of Canada on Wednesday launched a website dubbed YourMilk.ca, which organizes the case for the country’s dairy industry into three sections: one on the industry’s benefits to the public, producers and processors, another on "busting myths" and a third on "the facts."

"We hope that the facts on this new website will help people understand how our dairy industry works and see through some of the falsehoods currently being passed off by some as truths," DFC president Wally Smith said in a release.

Defenders of Canada’s system of supply management for dairy, eggs and poultry are used to a certain level of criticism, especially in recent years as the system has come under fire from Canada’s current and potential trading partners, for the tariff walls it creates against imports.

More recently, the system has come up as a possible sticking point in free trade negotiations with the European Union, and in Canada’s efforts to join talks with the Trans-Pacific Partnership — currently a nine-country Asia-Pacific regional trade pact, now being discussed among members including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

Export-minded Canadian business groups have thus criticized the government’s support for supply management as potentially jeopardizing their access to overseas markets.

"Earn their income"

The Conservative government’s long-stated support for supply management has also taken new domestic flak in recent months, as the Tories moved to pass and enact legislation ending the Canadian Wheat Board’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, starting Aug. 1 this year.

One such critic, National Post and Maclean’s columnist Andrew Coyne, ripped the government’s two policy positions in a column last summer as "profoundly hypocritical."

In the DFC’s release Wednesday, Smith sought to bust any claim that Canadian dairy farmers benefit from government subsidies, saying they "earn their income entirely from the marketplace."

Consumers in countries such as the U.S. and E.U. nations, on the other hand, "pay twice for their dairy products — once at the store and one more time through their taxes" in dairy subsidies, he said.

The DFC, on its new site, also state that supply management "hasn’t stood in the way of Canada’s ability to successfully negotiate trade agreements." The group cited the North American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S. and Mexico, plus various bilateral trade pacts finalized with overseas customers since 1986.

Supply management also "does not close doors to imports," the DFC said, adding that the EU, with "heavily subsidized" dairy products, exports to Canada 10 times what it imports, though the bloc has over 500 million consumers.

The DFC said its site aims to counter "misinformed myths" about Canada’s dairy system, "which has delivered Canadians a reliable supply of top-quality dairy products for 40 years."

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