Dairy farmers are right when they say they have been forced to keep giving in recent trade deals, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Speaking from Montreal on Thursday following a meeting with Quebec dairy officials, the prime minister said he acknowledged there are concerns among the farmers about the impact increased American access to the market here will have on top of the extra access already being offered to European and Pacific nations in recent years.
But he stressed the government is committed to compensating them for any financial hit.
“They told me they have continued to give in trade deals. … They’re right,” Trudeau told reporters when asked about what he heard in the meeting.
Under the updated NAFTA deal — dubbed the USMCA by U.S. President Donald Trump — American farmers will get access to up to 3.6 per cent of the Canadian dairy market.
Dairy lobbyists and farmers have condemned that, arguing it takes shelf space away from Canadian products and will have a financial impact on domestic farmers.
Two other recent trade deals with Europe and Pacific nations also made similar concessions.
WATCH BELOW: New USMCA deal leaves Quebec’s dairy farmers with a sour taste in their mouths
The Dairy Farmers of Ontario, which advocates for farmers in the province, said on Wednesday it was disappointed with the decision and planned to hold the government to its word to support the industry.
Trudeau has said the government plans to compensate farmers for any hit they incur from the market opening up.
That’s the same approach it took with CETA, the trade deal granting greater market access to European dairy producers.
After that deal was inked, dairy farmers in Canada got $250 million through the newly-created Dairy Farm Investment Program.
That money comes in the form of grants to farms to update their equipment.
It is not clear at this point whether the federal government plans to expand the scope of that program with additional funds to address the concerns of dairy farmers over the USMCA or whether it might buy back some of the quota being opened up.