Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rumours of the demise of supply management…greatly exaggerated?

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This post is from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, written in response to recent news reports questioning the fate of supply management in Canada for dairy, eggs and poultry as Canada considers entering the Trans-Pacific Partnership to bolster trade relations. It's a good followup to a post I wrote early arguing why we need supply management in agriculture

By Bette Jean Crews, federation president

Farmers across Canada were alarmed with the media reports of Prime Minister Harper’s recent decision to consider joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the potential cost to Canada’s agri-food industry.

In recent trade discussions at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Leaders Summit, Mr. Harper’s remarks were interpreted as a shift in his government’s economic and trade policies with the application to join the TPP. Media reports suggested the demise of Canada’s supply management system.

Trade Minister Ed Fast recently assured Parliament that the government won’t sacrifice farmers in the supply management sector to participate in the TPP trade talks. That restatement of the Conservative campaign promise provides reassurance but the agricultural community across our country remains vigilant, as we always are in trade negotiations. 

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA), on behalf of our members, supports supply management as a viable and profitable farm system that provides consistently priced, high quality products to Canadian consumers like milk, cheese, chicken and eggs.

Both Minister Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz have said the Conservative government will stick to its 2011 campaign promise to protect the industry. Farmers are prepared, as always to work with them throughout the negotiations to ensure they can keep that promise.

Countries currently participating countries in the TPP – New Zealand, in particular – are expected to apply considerable pressure to eliminate supply management in order for Canada to expand trade opportunities with the Asia-Pacific markets. However, all countries entering such negotiations work to protect sensitive sectors of their economies.

As in the past eight trade deals Canada has been involved with, countries will engage in negotiations knowing each others’ gives and takes. Supply management in Canada is not a give. OFA will work with our partners across the Canadian Federation of Agriculture to ensure our industry is thoroughly engaged in the negotiating process and all partners in the value chain have the opportunity to speak on behalf of our industry.

Together, we will continue to watch this situation closely and address concerns as they arise.

Meanwhile, to paraphrase Mark Twain, the (media) rumours of the demise of supply management are greatly exaggerated.
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