Photo of USDEC's Tom Vilsack.
May 1, 2017

USDEC’s Vilsack Talks Dairy Quota With Canadian TV   

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

Tom Vilsack, former Secretary of Agriculture in the Obama Administration and current President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Sunday went on Canada’s “The West Block” Sunday. The program is similar to NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

On it, Vilsack said all U.S dairy farmers want from Canada was a more open market. He said Canada had manipulated the market, making it more difficult for dairy imports from the United States to make it into Canada.

“We think this is an appropriate time to renegotiate, to modernize, to basically take a look at NAFTA that’s been in effect for a little over 20 years. It’s time to address some of these concerns that we’ve had for several years actually,” he said.

He also noted that it was up to the Canadian government, not U.S. dairy interests, as to what Canada does with its dairy quota program. “We’re not asking that the entire [quota] system be dismantled. We just want more fairness and more transparency,” he said.

President Donald Trump got involved in the dispute last week. “I love Canada, but they’ve outsmarted our politicians for many years. We’re going to take care of our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and upstate New York,” he said.

On April 29th, shortly after President Trump made those comments, the U.S. slapped 3 to 24% tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber coming into the United States. Though not viewed as direct retaliation, “everything is related to everything else” in trade, says Wilbur Ross, U.S. Commerce Secretary.

The dispute over Canadian softwood subsidies has been on-going for years, and April 30th was the last day the U.S. could impose sanctions. “This has been going on before anything that came up on milk,” Ross said in a briefing from the White House last week. But he added that the lumber and milk disputes are signs that the North American Free Trade Agreement “has not worked as well as it should.”

Read the full transcript of Vilsack’s comments here.