'Disappointed, but not terribly surprised:' Dairy farm concerned over Canadian trade deal

By Scott Roblin
October 1, 2018 - 5:29pm Updated: October 1, 2018 - 7:19pm

 

CYPRESS COUNTY, AB – Canada’s new trade deal with the United States and Mexico is not siting well with one local dairy producer.

Gerald Weiss operates Hatview Dairy Farm southwest of Medicine Hat, a farm that has been a part of the Weiss family since 1941.

He’s not happy with the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which would see Canadian dairy producers lose 3.6 percent of their market to American producers.

Weiss said if the framework is rolled out all at once, it could have a lasting impact on their operation.

“If it was immediate, to give up another three percent of the market would be two or three more cows that we'd have to pull off the line that would not produce that amount of milk,” said Weiss.

According to the federal government, compensation will be provided to dairy farmers affected by the loss of supply management.

While Weiss said it’s a good start towards keeping Canada’s dairy market competitive, he’s a little skeptical.

“It would be nice to be able to make sure that we can become more competitive, if that's what they mean by the compensation,” he said. “But at this point, there's no details as to what that could entail.”

Access to the American market was a concession by the Canadian government to get the deal done, while Class 7 pricing on Canadian milk products like skim and whole milk powder will be ended as well.

Political science instructor at Medicine Hat College Jim Groom said these concessions were made because Canada wasn’t willing to budge on a more profitable industry such as the auto sector.

“Our dairy farms are getting smaller and smaller all the time anyway and their impact is still considerable, but it is a little bit less than what we have seen in the past,” said Groom.

Aside from certain producers and online shoppers not having to pay duties on purchases up to $150, Groom said most Albertans won’t see the effects of the new deal immediately.

“It really doesn't address oil and gas in any respect, so that's really crucial for us of course,” he said.

Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner MP Glen Motz was among those who heard about the agreement in question period on Monday.

However, he said he didn’t get many answers on why the deal benefits Canadians.

“It appears we've lost a lot of things and we gave things up, and we haven't really got any gains that they would identify,” said Motz.

The deal is still not official as all three countries will still need to ratify the accord, which could pass as soon as November in the United States.

In that time, Weiss is asking the government to think of the small producers across the country who are just trying to keep up.

“If they can put in transitional mechanisms so that it's not a major effect all at once, we can hopefully adjust and try to regain some market share and keep going forward,” he said.

Steel and aluminum tarrifs were not lifted on Canadian manufactures, while the Canadian government is calling dispute resolution measures taken in the new deal a big victory.

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