Alberta dairy farmers stand up to Trump threats

Alberta farmers say the United States wants access to Canadian markets to ease their crisis of having too much milk.

'Trump is picking on family farms like mine because the U.S.A. just has too much milk'

Alberta dairy farmers say the U.S. wants access to Canada to solve its over-production issues. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

Alberta dairy farmers are pushing back against U.S. President Donald Trump's demand Saturday that Canada dismantle its supply-managed dairy system.

They say the U.S wants access to Canadian markets to ease their own crisis of oversupply.

"Trump is picking on family farms like mine because the U.S.A. just has too much milk," Albert Kamps, vice-chairman of Alberta Milk, said Monday in a press release. "They are over-producing and want to dump their oversupply in Canada, but we're full."

During the recent G7 summit Trump hinted that if Canada doesn't comply, he would move to further curtail the trading relationship between the two countries. He recently imposed tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.

Kamps and his son operate a third-generation dairy farm near Lacombe, 125 kilometres south of Edmonton. He said the system of supply management ensures that the majority of dairy products consumed in Canada come from Canadian farms.

Trump accused Canada of tariffs as high as 270 per cent; Kamps says that's true, but it's not the whole story.

"Canada allows 10 per cent and the United States conversely only allows three per cent in without tariffs," said Kamps. "So Trump does kind of talk out of both sides of his mouth."

Canada's dairy industry is tightly controlled with a quota system and restricted imports. The government levies a tariff of 270 per cent on milk, 245 per cent on cheese and 298 per cent on butter in an effort to keep imports out and tightly control supply.

Kamps said tariffs shield Canadian farmers from heavily subsidized dairy imports.

Kamps said the U.S phased out a system similar to Canada's in the 1980s and that's the reason for the crisis they're now in.  "They have no method of cutting back production in the United States," he said, adding the government has attempted strategies such as the slaughtering of animals or buying cheese and dumping it on the world market. 

Under the Canadian system, said Kamps, dairy farmers are paid "a fair price" set each year by the Canadian dairy commission. It also protects against the dumping of milk or running short on supplies.

Kamps said the system has been supported by all parties for years "and we expect that to continue because it doesn't them any cost any tax dollars, it's an easy thing to budget for and the farmers are happy with it and we hope the P.M.  stands behind us."