Maritime dairy farmer groups unhappy with NAFTA replacement

Maritime dairy farmer groups unhappy with NAFTA replacement
WATCH: Dairy farmer groups in the Maritimes say the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement is expected to negatively impact their industry. Steve Silva reports.

News of the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA) is still being digested, and there are details left to learn, but there is already firm negative reaction from one Canadian industry in the Maritimes.

“I’m very, very disappointed. Not just me, but on behalf of all 12,000 dairy producers across Canada,” Gerrit Damsteegt, chairman of Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia, said in an interview in North Salem, N.S., on Monday.

Here’s what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said about the deal:

The agreement will give the U.S. an expanded 3.6 per cent market access to the domestic dairy market and will also eliminate competitive dairy classes.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau, Chrystia Freeland call new NAFTA deal ‘a victory’ but warn challenges remain

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Damsteegt said he moved to Canada three decades ago from the Netherlands because he believed in the country’s dairy supply-management system.

The agreement is especially concerning for farmers after the market was opened to more imports via the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, he said.

Paul Gaunce, chairman of Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick, echoed those thoughts in a FaceTime interview from his farm in Passekeag, N.B.

He said the agreement is one-sided in respect to the revised dairy import limit because Canadian farmers can’t make dairy products inexpensive enough to sell well in the U.S. market.

WATCH: Singh says Liberals have ‘betrayed’ dairy sector, ‘eroded’ supply management

Singh says Liberals have ‘betrayed’ dairy sector, ‘eroded’ supply management
Singh says Liberals have ‘betrayed’ dairy sector, ‘eroded’ supply management

“It makes it very, very difficult when everybody wants you to make your food for nothing,” Gaunce said.

The agreement may result in fewer dairy farms in operation in Canada, he said.

That said, the agreement is good thing if other sectors in Canada benefit from it, and “it could have been a lot worse,” Gaunce added.

Ryan Cardwell, an associate professor in the University of Manitoba’s department of agribusiness and agricultural economics, said the agreement didn’t bring any big surprises, and he doesn’t see there being a big impact on the Canadian dairy industry.

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“The amount that’s coming in will be small enough that it won’t fundamentally change the structure of the industry in Canada, and we may see consumer prices for processed products go down a little bit, but it’s not going to be a sea change,” he said in a Skype interview from his Winnipeg office.

Cardwell also said he expected the federal government to announce a compensation package for producers.

READ MORE: Canadian dairy farmers slam new trade agreement, say it will have ‘dramatic impact’

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, who was a key player in the trade talks, later in the day said a process has already begun to determine how to fully compensate Canadian producers.

“The reality is we have [more than] 30 million consumers of these products and a very small number of producers and, in almost every case, the benefits to consumers outweigh potential losses to producers, and that point is almost always missed in [news] coverage of trade negotiations,” Cardwell said.

With two files from The Canadian Press