Okanagan dairy farmers look for political support as NAFTA negotiations proceed
Trinity Dairy Ltd. near Enderby held an open house for politicians and their staff on Thursday.
About 50 people toured the farm, and producers had the chance to talk to their elected officials about political issues like protecting the Agricultural Land Reserve, road maintenance, and the need for a local milk-processing facility.
Canada has high tariffs on most dairy products — 270 per cent.
Farmers are paid fixed amounts for their product, and production quotas are strictly managed to prevent oversupply.
Dairy farmers worry that these protections will be in jeopardy as NAFTA negotiations proceed.
“The risk of losing supply management would put us potentially in the same position as the states,” farm owner Ralph Van Dalfsen said. “Overproduction and farmers would be in trouble. We might lose the industry or need government support potentially.”
U.S. dairy farmers have another beef with Canada’s industry.
Separated milk proteins — used to make cheese and yogurt — are fairly new food products, and exempt from the tariffs.
The U.S. shipped a lot of them to Canadian processors until 2016, when Canadian producers convinced regulators to create a new class of lower-priced milk to sell to processors to make these products from.
“That’s why American farmers didn’t have a market for their milk, they got upset,” Kamloops-Okanagan Dairy Association president Henry Bemer said. “They got Trump upset, but they were overproducing. They didn’t have a market for their milk so they were shipping it to Canada and flooding ours.”
Dairy is just one industry under fire in the NAFTA negotiations, along with softwood lumber and auto parts.