NFU President meets with EU farm leaders in Brussels, talks dairy crisis and CETA

(September 28, 2016, Courtenay, BC) - On September 19, 2016 Jan Slomp, President of Canada’s National Farmers Union (NFU) met with leaders of the European Milk Board and European Commission officials in Brussels. He was invited there to elaborate on his July 22, 2016 letter to European Union (EU) Dairy Commissioner Phil Hogan where he encouraged Europe to solve its ongoing dairy crisis by adopting a Canadian-style supply management system instead of attempting to use the CETA trade agreement to increase dairy exports to Canada.

Recent EU agriculture policy changes intended to promote dairy exports have caused European dairy farmers’ prices to drop to two-thirds of the cost of production for the past 2 years. Individual farmers are going broke and the sector is facing a huge disaster. In an attempt to deal with this crisis, EU countries have allocated millions of Euros in emergency payments to remove surplus production.The result has been no real improvement on the price of farm gate milk prices. In spite of these facts the EU, while hoping that demand will eventually catch up with supply, continues to promote expansion of exports, including to Canada by way of CETA concessions.

“CETA would shift 185,000 tonnes of milk production from Canada to Europe by increasing its access to our cheese market. This production could support 400 new entrant dairy farm families in Canada. Instead, CETA would take away our dairy farmers’ livelihoods without having any impact on the price for European farmers” said Slomp. “With CETA, Canada is sacrificing domestic production and European farmers are not gaining anything. Additional volume would be sold below the cost of production, and at less than 3% of Europe’s current cheese exports, would not affect the overall demand for European dairy products. It is highly unlikely that even Canadian consumers will benefit by way of lower cheese prices. Increasing EU exports to Canada harms us yet it does nothing for their farmers.”

On September 20, Slomp was among the 15,000 people who participated in the National Stop CETA and TTIP Day demonstration in Brussels. A few days earlier, a similar national day of action occurred in cities across Germany, with an estimated 320,000 people demonstrating.

“There is rapidly growing opposition to CETA in Europe,” noted Slomp. “Citizens there are learning that it is not about trade but rather about giving corporations power to sue governments and trample on the public interest. The measures in CETA do not benefit general economies of the countries involved; they simply help corporations extract more of the wealth that is created on the land by people in their communities.”

“Rural Canada’s social fabric is stretched to the breaking point as fewer and fewer people are left to farm ever-larger farms with shrinking margins,” said Slomp. “In Canada, as well as Europe, we urge our governments to reject CETA and instead ask them to honour our true economic system by making sure that the rewards of production are returned to the smaller communities that are creating the real wealth.”

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For more information:
 
Jan Slomp, NFU President: (250) 898-8223 or (403) 704-4364
NFU Letter on dairy crisis sent to EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan
NFU Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food regarding
Agricultural Impacts of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement