U.S. President Donald Trump leaves the G7 Leaders Summit in La Malbaie, Que., on Saturday, June 9, 2018. Trump upped the ante on Canada’s supply-managed dairy system over the weekend as he repeatedly warned that the country would face repercussions unless it is dismantled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Column: Trump trade wars and food security

Should Canada keep a handle on its food products? Columnist David Zirnhelt discusses

It would appear that dairy farmers in Wisconsin voted overwhelming for Donald Trump. It might be payback time for them, as Trump says he wants to export more dairy products to Canada.

Already, Canada has opened the borders to allow U.S. farmers to send an amount equivalent to 10 per cent of Canada’s production into Canada.

This is not free trade. Is this fair trade? What is fair trade? These are relative terms.

Fair trade is defined by negotiation.

In the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations, which we hear so much about in the media, the U.S. side wants Canada to open up the borders for the flow of some agricultural produce to flow back and forth more freely, that is without tariffs put on as a barrier to imports.

Canada is trying to protect longstanding support for our dairy industry which is supply managed. In other words, the supply produced in Canada (really various provinces) is regulated to allow only what we Canadians need and want (domestic demand).

If supply and demand in Canada are balanced, then the price of the product should be based on this amount, rather than on short supply or on surplus supply.

Historically, some country’s farmers, if left to produce more and more, oversupply happens and processes collapse and, often, farmers go broke.

Then we might have to source our food (dairy) from outside Canada.

Who cares if that happens? Consider this. If we opened our borders to U.S. eggs, one or two mega producers in the U.S. could supply all of Canada’s needs.

But if the U.S. had some epidemic affecting its supply of eggs, guess who would get the supply that was left. Not Canada. This could, after all, become a matter of national security for the U.S.

The complaint from consumers is that our prices of supply managed goods (dairy, poultry, eggs, principally) are higher than in the U.S.

True, unless there is a U.S. crop failure, and prices sky rocket in the U.S., as has happened.

So if we opened our borders, there might be product dumped in times of high production, which could put our farmers out of business.

In order to be secure in raising our own food and protecting its supply for our citizens (consumers), Canadians created the supply management system.

We don’t create great surpluses to be sent over the border to the U.S.

Once we do something like destroy our supply management system (which is governed by Boards in Canada) by giving it up to Trump’s demands at the NAFTA talks, we might never get back the control over our food sovereignty for those products.

I, for one, would like us to remain in control over our food destiny.

One of the effects of controlling supply is that the governing boards give out a “quota” of how much a producer can supply to the domestic market.

Producers are able to buy and sell this quota and this has led to huge capital value.

And had made many farmers pretty well off.

At the least then they are (or some quota purchasing farmer is) still in business and their profitability has kept them in business.

By the way, beef is not supply managed and there are no quotas in beef production. Canadian ranchers have always wanted to be free to send our surpluses to the U.S.

And as a rule, U.S. ranchers and specially the feedlots and meat processors have wanted to import a lot of Canada’s surplus.

Do you want Canada to remain in control of some key food product? I do.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher in the Cariboo and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake Campus.

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