Contributed by Peter Spriut
I think some farmers will benefit from global trade but not all farmers will experience the same dividends. In the many free countries that have minimum or no barriers to trade, still have the majority of the food produced and consumed in the same country. This is a concern since the world price is paid to producers, often less than domestic price especially in European countries. What is the global price? I believe it is the lowest price farmers are able to dump milk on the market, in other words lowest price to get rid of the milk. Why should farmers get paid global price if it cannot sustain their operation.
With the latest global milk price crash many farmers in the EU, New Zealand and US are feeling the squeeze. Many dairy farmers in these countries are trying to cover losses, barely holding on. These same feelings are reflected in the Canadian beef and hog industries. Working all day (from 5am till 9pm), everyday and losing money doing it is exhausting, but most farmers have no choice. It is either call for bankruptcy and never be able to farm anymore or continue to sink in a drowning debt working 7 days a week, doing something we love.
For these reasons/fears I believe supply management has been the best system out there, although there are many negative critics. I come from a dairy farm located in Woodstock. We had moved 10 years ago from the Netherlands where we had a dairy and hog operation. The biggest advantage of supply management is quality of lifestyle. Lifestyle of dairy and chicken producers in Canada is easily ten times higher than those found in others countries. Look at all the fancy barns being built, cars being driven, and vacations taken. High quality of lifestyle is something to cherish. Do a google search and you will find many stories of farmers in the US struggling to make ends meet in the dairy industry. I believe the same fate awaits many of us if we open our borders to free trade for two reasons. The first reason is that the cost of production is much higher in Canada than other countries such as of the extra money that goes into insulating the buildings from our climate. The second reason is that we are a price taker industry to the small amount of processors.
In conclusion, holding on to my lifestyle and fear that the global price is much lower than cost of production (as seen in the last three years). I do not believe that the Canadian dairy farmers will benefit from increasing trade. However on that note some trade like specialty cheeses is an attractive niche market. Supply management may have its downfalls but overall sustaining the farmers quality of life and keeping family farms alive far outweighs those disadvantages.