Weighing the deal: Organic dairy farmer Jack McLeod poses with a heifer on his farm’s pasture.

Dairy farmers ‘cautiously optimistic’ about trade deal

The devil is in the details, but at first glance the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not as bad as envisioned

The devil is in the details, but at first glance the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not as bad as envisioned.

Dairy farmer Jack McLeod expresses this view when asked about the controversial deal that was feared by many with supply-managed products – mainly dairy, poultry and egg producers.

McLeod said under the agreement the dairy industry will lose 3.25 per cent of its market but will receive compensation.

“Honestly I think it’s the best we could have hoped for. We are losing that market share but they are compensating for it, supposedly.

He said the rumours appear to be worse than the actual outcome.

“There were some really dire rumours and speculation that we could lose up to 10 per cent of the market, so when it came out that it was just over three, it was a bit of a relief. It’s still not good but it’s better than it could have been, let’s put it that way.” McLeod said he will reserve judgement, though, until all the details have been made public.

“We’re assuming that on the remainder of the market, the tariffs are staying at 200 per cent,” he said. “But if they’re going to start phasing those down, then all of a sudden you might start getting more milk coming than we anticipated, so the devil is in the details.”

Henry Bremer, president of the Kamloops Okanagan Dairy Association, expresses a similar sentiment.

“We keep hearing bits and pieces. There’s a little bit of mixed feelings. Probably you could say we’re cautiously optimistic,” he said. “We’re glad that supply management got supported throughout the process of negotiations, but a little disappointed we had to give up three-and-a-quarter per cent. I guess there were a lot of details to be worked out but how they’re worked out might help with the loss of the market.”

Overall, he said, the association is pleased a deal was completed that extends support for local dairy farmers and their families.

Regarding concerns about quality of dairy to be imported to replace the 3.25 per cent of the Canadian market, McLeod said he can’t comment as he’s not sure where it will be coming from.

Bremer said it’s hard to know, but expectations are it will be fluid milk coming from the U.S. He said the quality is pretty good but growth hormones are allowed.

“If we’re talking other countries, there could be other concerns.”

At a recent business forum in Salmon Arm, Bryan Yu, senior economist with Central 1 Credit Union, the organization that overseas all credit unions in B.C. and Ontario, responded to a question about the TPP.

“Generally speaking it would be good, except for some sectors – dairy, cheese, the auto sector – there would be less need for Canadian and North American parts. There are some losers,” he said.

“But the point is you’re expanding your partners. Canada is a  small country, a small market, we need to get products to market… If we would not be part of a trading block, we would be shut out of those opportunities. There is no question in my mind we should be part of that block.”

The TPP is a proposed agreement between 12 Pacific Rim countries that was signed on Oct. 5.

 

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