En Route to the Second Round of NAFTA Negotiations

September 3rd, 2017
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Farm Policy

On August 16, I landed in Washington for the first round of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) renegotiations. You could feel the anticipation in the air as politicians remained vague yet optimistic in their comments, while journalists attempted to read between the lines and predict any possible changes for NAFTA 2.0. In headlines that week were endless articles and speculations about the future of the dairy industry and ways to undermine supply management in Canada.

Accompanied by two vice-presidents, David Wiens (Manitoba) and Ralph Dietrich (Ontario), as well as Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) staff, I was there to support the government in its defence of supply management. If dairy is to be included in the new NAFTA, and supply management is not maintained, the dairy industry and the Canadian economy will be the losers.

Keep in mind that supply management has enabled the dairy industry to become an engine for economic growth, employing more than 220,000 people across the country and creating a significant economic impact, with a contribution of nearly $20 billion to the Canadian GDP. The growth of our industry has enabled us to innovate and produce quality milk that is now internationally renowned and used to produce more than 1,000 different cheeses. The Canadian dairy industry has been gaining momentum for the past several years, and it would be a shame to hinder its development by compromising on a domestic agricultural policy that has become the foundation of our success.

In spite of all the possible scenarios on how the NAFTA renegotiations could play out, I remain confident. The delegation of Canadian negotiators is united behind a well-developed game plan to defend our interests. I am sure that, just as the United States will protect its agricultural policies, like the Farm Bill, Chrystia Freeland, our minister of Foreign Affairs, and her team will defend supply management. Despite efforts to come to an agreement, I have found that there is mutual respect between negotiators, recognizing the autonomy of each country involved.

As a dairy farmer, I am extremely proud of how far our industry has come. Even though Canadian dairy farmers focus on producing milk for our own market, others recognize us as leaders. In addition to producing a superior quality milk, our cheese makers and processors produce cheeses that win international awards on a regular basis. While our American counterparts are facing an uncertain future due to overproduction, our supply management system has become the envy of many dairy farmers in the United States. I therefore encourage all dairy farmers to continue to promote our success by word of mouth and explain what supply management is all about.

As we near the end of the second round of NAFTA negotiations in Mexico, my thoughts are with the farmers and their families, and those who live in areas that depend on the survival and continued prosperity of the dairy sector. These people have worked so hard to build a dairy industry that we can boast about. Whether it is the quality of our products or supply management, in Canada, we have a lot to be proud of.

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