April 12, 2017

Canada to U.S. Dairy: This Is Not Our Fault

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Over the past few weeks much discussion in the dairy industry has centered on trade with Canada. On April 1, dozens of farmers in Wisconsin and Minnesota were told by their processor that milk would no longer be picked up from their farm. As a result there’s roughly 1.5 million pounds of milk that will be floating around the market without a home as of May 1. While processors and industry leaders alike have blamed Canada for the issue, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Canada will not claim responsibility for the situation.

“We don’t feel good about U.S. farms going out of business. But you know what? It’s not our responsibility. It’s your own responsibility, as a country, to manage your production,” said Isabelle Bouchard, director of government relations for the trade group Dairy Farmers of Canada. “We are a nation of 36 million people, less than the population of California. How do you expect us to (consume) your over-supply of milk when we already produce milk for our market?”

In an official statement members of Dairy Farmers of Canada point out that both U.S. and world dairy markets are oversaturated and the glut of milk has resulted in lower prices and, in some cases, farms going out of business.

“By contrast, in Canada, supply management — literally matching supply with demand — avoids overproduction and reduces the impact of devastating market fluctuations such as those the U.S. is currently experiencing,” they said.

Canadians claim the new pricing system, Class VII, which is in question by U.S. leaders, was intended to make Canadian farmers more competitive with U.S. farmers.

According to the Journal Sentinel, in a letter to Chad Vincent, CEO of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, the Dairy Processors Association of Canada president Jacques Lefebvre wrote: “Some have reverted to making Canada the source of the woes for the dairy industry in the United States, rather than admitting to having no ready-made solution. This may buy time, but does little to help dairy farmers or processors.”

“We certainly empathize with the problems faced by the industry in the United States, which stem from over-supply of milk and the ensuing difficulties for some processing plants to keep up. We too experience these challenges in Canada. Unfortunately, this problem goes beyond our two countries. It is a global one.”