Quotas lobby worries dairy farmers
P.E.I. dairy farmers are concerned about how lobbying from outside the agriculture sector could hit the system that regulates the price of milk.
Certain farm products in Canada — including milk, eggs and poultry — are price controlled under a system called supply management. Farmers in these industries are worried the federal government is being pressured to end supply management as it negotiates free trade deals.
Canada is currently looking for free trade deals with some Pacific-rim countries and in Europe.
At a meeting of Pacific leaders earlier this month in Hawaii, the federal govenment announced it wants to join free-trade talks with the TransPacific Partnership.
It's a way for Canada to get into the world's fast-growing economies. Ottawa says it can join the talks and hold on to supply management.
But the trade group said countries must abandon protectionist systems just to get into the talks.
"Our concern is how much lobbying is taking place from other interests, other economies that want to get in [and] have access to our market," Dairy Farmers of Prince Edward Island chair Harold MacNevin told CBC News Thursday.
"When there's a big substantial number of consumers and retailers that want the supply management system dismantled, then that's where our concern is."
P.E.I.'s dairy production is worth $60 million a year to the Island's 196 farmers.
MacNevin's organization has contacted all Island MLAs and MPs, asking for their support to keep their quota system, which they say provides them with better prices.
The federal government has said it will defend the supply management system.
"I'm a farmer. I've always been a farmer. I want farmers to be able to make a living off of farming. I don't care if they're in China, South America, Canada, U.S. We deserve to make a living," MacNevin said.