National | Opinion

CBC news story a slap in the face of hard working Canadian dairy farmers

On Thursday’s CBC Vancouver noon news program, the business reporter made the odd announcement that dairy farmers in Canada are the second most uncompetitive in the world. This came immediately after reporting that a deal on CETA had been reached after the Belgian region of Wallonia resisted signing it due to their opposition to CETA’s anti-democratic Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) clauses that allow corporations to sue governments if they believe new regulations will impinge on their expectations of profits.

CETA is opposed by many Canadian dairy farmers, as well as other farmers and consumers in solidarity. The deal would allow for an additional 17,000 tonnes of European cheese to enter Canada, taking away the market for, and livelihoods of, 400 Canadian dairy farms.

It appears that CBC’s business reporter (who is actually a public relations consultant for the finance industry, not a journalist) has attempted to justify one of the most damaging parts of CETA by disparaging Canadian dairy farmers with this comment. It is obvious that she has no knowledge of what hard-working Canadian dairy farmers are accomplishing 24-seven, 365 days a year. I cannot imagine a bigger slap in the face.

Dairy farmers have modernized their farms and are producing massive volumes of milk per farm and per unit of labour.  Every day, Canadian dairy farmers supply the right amount of fresh milk to processors, always meeting their needs while avoiding over-supply. Canadian dairy farmers have had to adjust to the negative consequences of NAFTA, various WTO rulings, and now CETA and potentially the TPP further down the road. All of these trade agreements have added costs and taken away market share from Canadian producers. Yet the other jurisdictions that are now allowed to import into the Canadian dairy market as a result of these deals heavily subsidize their dairy sectors directly from the public purse. Here in Canada we do not do that!

Right wing think tanks like the C.D. Howe Institute, Fraser Institute, the Conference Board of Canada, and PR flacks from Bay Street for that matter, look at dairy “competitiveness” only in terms of the price processors pay farmers for raw milk. The massive subsidies received by dairy farmers in the USA, Europe and elsewhere are not included in farm gate prices there. Their “competitive” low dairy prices are in fact a public subsidy to the processors, not a reflection of the actual costs of production.

The right wing pundits also ignore the social cost associated with the deregulated dairy industry in these exporting countries. Right now there is a massive glut of surplus milk production in the world market driving down farm gate prices. Even with their government subsidies, dairy farmers in Europe, the US, Australia and New Zealand, are getting paid well below their cost of production. Farmers are suffering, going broke and there are more reports of suicides. The human costs are huge, but excess production makes the product cheap for multinational corporations sourcing dairy ingredients.

American and European legislators are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to fix their broken systems with their chronic over supply problems.  Thank goodness for supply management in Canada! Except that every time we talk trade agreements, Canada’s negotiators deliver yet another severe blow to supply management. We have given away so much over the years and now we are asked again to give up even more with CETA.

Canadian government, STOP killing supply management! Enough!

Jan Slomp
About the author

Jan Slomp

Jan Slomp and his spouse, Marian, have been dairy farmers since 1979, first in their native Netherlands and from April 1989 until 2015, in Alberta. They recently moved to BC and set up a new farm on Vancouver Island.

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