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Letter: CETA – Cheese market concession denies livelihoods to nearly 400 young farmers

Hon. Lawrence MacAulay
Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Dear Minister MacAulay,

Re: CETA – Cheese market concession denies livelihoods to nearly 400 young farmers

In light of the severe consequences it would have for the future of Canada’s dairy sector, the National Farmers Union is extremely disappointed to learn you were recently discussing swift ratification of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe’s Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan.

The federal government under former Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, agreed to allow Europe to sell 17,700 tonnes of high-value cheese in Canada’s market. As you know, it takes about 10 kilograms of milk to produce 1 kilogram of cheese. Thus, ratifying CETA would mean a loss of 177,000 tonnes, or about 177 million litres of Canadian milk production. This quantity would be enough to support nearly 400 young farmers with 50-cow dairy herds. Removing the livelihoods of these potential farmers and related processing employees is a loss to the economies of their local communities, as well as a reduction in tax revenues for all levels of government.

At the same time, dairy farmers across Europe are rallying for a return to mandatory quotas, barely a year after they were ended. It is no surprise that without quotas, milk production rapidly increased, resulting in a market glut and price crash. Last week, farmers in England, France, Belgium, Hungary and Germany were in the streets protesting against the EU’s agriculture policy that ended quotas. They are protesting the injustice of losing their livelihoods as a result of an ill-conceived European policy.

The 17,700 tonnes of European cheese that CETA would allow into Canada would be produced by European farmers who are not able to receive a price that comes close to their cost of production. Ratifying CETA would not only deny young Canadian future farmers their chance to enter Canada’s dairy sector, it would also mean Canadian consumers would be implicated in unfair treatment of European farmers.

The National Farmers Union has made a thorough study of the CETA agreement. The loss of livelihood for Canadian dairy farmers is but one of many serious problems CETA would unleash if ratified. Our findings and conclusions are published in the brief we presented to the Agriculture and Agri-food Committee, which is posted on our website here.

Canada’s participation in CETA makes no sense economically, and it also fails ethically. Producing more milk for less money is not solving European dairy farmers’ problems. Why, then, is your government now ready to give up a significant share of our market to them when they are seeking a return to market regulation to safeguard their own livelihoods? We urge you to instead stand up for Canada’s farmers and our supply management system by taking a clear position against ratifying CETA.


Jan Slomp

NFU President


  • Jean-Claude Poissant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Pat Finnigan, Chair, Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food
  • Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of International Trade
  • Chris Warkentin, Conservative Agriculture Critic
  • Ruth Ellen Brosseau, NDP Agriculture Critic
  • Elizabeth May, Green Party
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