P.E.I. dairy farmers say new trade deal a 'bitter disappointment'

Several dairy farmers on P.E.I. are expressing their frustration and disappointment with the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

'They're giving away our market ... to the point where it's going to cripple it'

There are 165 dairy farms across P.E.I. that will be affected by the new trade deal. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Several dairy farmers on P.E.I. are expressing their frustration and disappointment with the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.

Under the new deal, Canada is expected to give U.S. farmers greater access to Canada's dairy market by increasing the quota on foreign imports. Exactly how much access is not yet clear. 

Alain Remond and his daughter Deanna Doctor are among the concerned P.E.I. producers. They run Redview Holstein and Jersey, a dairy farm in Kensington, P.E.I. 

'Confidence in the system'

"It does impact our bottom line but mostly impacts our confidence in the system," Remond said. "I feel bitter disappointment for all our dairy farmers."

Alain Remond, right, runs a dairy operation in Kensington, P.E.I., with his daughter Deanna Doctor, left, who holds her daughter Olivia. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

Together Remond and Doctor take care of about 100 cows. Remond plans to eventually pass on the farm to his daughter. With the U.S. getting greater access to the Canadian market, he worries about that as a long-term plan.

"How can you run a business when you don't know what tomorrow will bring? How can we bring on the next generation now? How can we invest in the future when we don't know what's going on now, anymore?"

It's a concern echoed by his daughter. Deanna Doctor returned to the family farm after working out West, and plans to hand it on to her own children someday.

"I don't regret working with my dad every day, I don't regret bringing my kids to work every day, that our job is our life and our life is our job. I don't regret that, but I mean what kind of future am I giving my kids?" said Doctor, adding the USMCA feels like a betrayal.

"I wish we kept to the saying 'no deal is better than a bad deal' because it's a deal done on dairy farmers' backs."

'Used as a bartering tool'

The Dairy Farmers of Prince Edward Island said it agrees with the sentiment, and that the deal throws dairy farmers under the bus, again. 

Premier Wade MacLauchlan says the province will continue to be a vocal supporter of P.E.I. dairy producers. (CBC)

"This is the third trade deal in a row that the dairy industry in Canada has been used as a bartering tool," said chairman Harold MacNevin.

"The Canadian government says it supports supply management but yet they're giving away our market piece by piece to the point where it's going to cripple it."

Province reiterates support

"There's no question this will be a changed situation, there will be a downside impact for the producers," said Premier Wade MacLauchlan as he praised the Island's dairy industry. 

"As I understand it it's principally going to be ingredients where the access has been granted," MacLauchlan added. "Anxiety is entirely understandable and I share it. I have some real concerns about where this is going to go."

MacLauchlan said the province has been in touch several times over the past 24 hours with the province's largest dairy processor, Amalgamated Dairies Limited. 

"They've expressed concern and it's a concern we share," MacLauchlan said. "The solution or the way forward is to have full dialogue, to have the best possible information and frankly to look ahead." 

The province is encouraging the federal government to quickly put in place adjustment programs to reduce any negative effects on Island dairy producers or processors.

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