April 11, 2017

Vilsack: Every Option Must Be Kept Open to Fix Canadian Market Issue

 |  By: Anna-Lisa Laca

Over the last two weeks more than 75 dairy farmers have been told the processor they’ve been shipping their milk to will no longer be able to accept it because of a Canadian market closing to the U.S. While those farmers were given 30 days to find a home for their milk, government officials and dairy industry leaders alike are working tirelessly to find both short-term and long-term homes for that milk.

“This is a very serious situation,” Tom Vilsack, CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) told Mike Adams on AgriTalk.  “One of the thing we’ve attempted to do is to get governors and agriculture secretaries together to urge the Canadians about how unacceptable the situation is.”

Industry leaders are looking at Congress to help fix the problem. There is a letter circulating to urge Canada to “rethink their position” before other actions must be taken.  

One way the market access sticking point could be solved is through a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“We’re looking forward to having a number of people meeting with Secretary Ross to underscore the importance of including (the Canadian situation) in renegotiation talks,” he said.

Industry leaders don’t feel they know enough about the new Canadian policy to ensure necessary changes, but Canada is being less than helpful in providing more information.

“That’s really part of the frustration here,” Vilsack said.

He said USDEC received a letter from some of the Canadian processors and officials saying they’ve provided the U.S. the appropriate information, but that’s not true.

“The reality is we really don’t know precisely how this new system will be implemented but we’re now starting to see the devastating impact of this policy on real dairies, real operators and real circumstances,” Vilsack said.

WTO Action Isn’t Out Of Question

Many industry leaders believe limiting access to Canadian markets could be a violation of World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. If Canada isn’t willing to concede access, Vilsack said a WTO challenge isn’t out of the question.

“If push comes to shove, we will be looking at a longer term strategy with the WTO,” he said. “Candidly, we don’t want to go through the WTO process because it takes a lot of time.”

Vilsack said every option must be kept open and available in a situation like this one.

“When you close a market like this one has been closed, there’s significant consequence,” he said. “It’s a serious situation.”