Worried over Trans-Pacific Partnership

Last week’s Trans-Pacific Partnership in Atlanta has Island dairy farmers concerned over supply management. Scott Wells photo

farming industry, the owner of the Dock Road Dairy Farm Kent Rennie extended an invitation to the federal candidates vying for the riding of Egmont to see his farm in Alberton.

“We’re just trying to get our message out that we can’t take any more cuts to our dairy industry before it’s going to disappear completely,” said Mr Rennie, who sits on the milk marketing board for PEI, “It’s a good time and everybody is campaigning and the people who are out there looking for our votes to know we can’t take any more of these cuts. It’s starting to hurt.”

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free trade deal aiming to expand the flow of goods, services and capital across borders.

Canada’s dairy industry supply management is based on three pillars: import control, producer pricing and production.

This provides balance in the dairy sector by allowing Canadian dairy farmers to collectively negotiate prices and adjust milk production to meet consumer demand.

“We control the amount of milk coming into Canada, we control the amount of milk that is produced in Canada and we also rely on price control to set the prices ourselves, so it’s the same as everything else, once you get over 5 per cent over production on the open market the bottom falls out of it,” said Mr Rennie, “So one of our problems right now is if the federal government allows products to come in from other countries, we are going to lose that ability to produce that milk.”

Mr Rennie said there are productions already coming into the country that are not recognized as dairy products that are affecting his industry.

“So they’re bringing in productions that are being used to make cheese and we’re saying if it’s made to use cheese it should be shut off, but the federal government is saying we don’t recognize it as a milk product, so they’re not stopping and it’s accounting for a 11 per cent of our quota that we are losing and it’s costing us money,” he said.

New Democrat Party candidate Dr Herb DIckieson took Mr Rennie up on his invitation and toured the farm’s newly rebuilt modernized barn.

“I grew up on a farm and I feel for what’s happening in agriculture… It’s so important not only to the farmers but for the rest of the Island as well,” said Dr Dickieson.

On Sept. 30, Mr Rennie and other Island dairy farmers rallied outside the Summerside offices of Gail Shea to voice their concerns.

“We were happy with the turn out, but we just got the message we’ve gotten all along,” he said, “It’s the same old story. We’re going to do the best for Canadians, but what’s best for Canadians is not necessarily what’s best for dairy farmers.”

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