Dairy concessions in new NAFTA deal 'gives up quite a bit' for Ontario farmers

To reach the new NAFTA deal, some concessions had to be made in dairy.

A Sarnia dairy farmer says they are giving up a fair chunk of their market under the new deal

Just over a year later, negotiations on the NAFTA deal is finally finished, but not without sacrifices to dairy. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The new free trade agreement was a win for the auto sector in several ways — but to reach that agreement, Canada made concessions in dairy.

The Canadian market is now more open to the U.S. under the new deal, with U.S. exporters having access to roughly 3.59 per cent of the market. Asian countries have 3.25 per cent.

Dairy farmer Kevin Forbes said that's "a fair chunk of our market, which we've given up again."

Aside from opening the market, Canada has also agreed to end class 7 pricing, which cut prices on some Canadian-produced milk ingredients like protein concentrates, skim milk and whole milk powder. That pricing system was introduced in March last year, which made American equivalents uncompetitive.

Pierre Lampron, president for the Dairy Farmers of Canada, condemned the move, saying he doesn't know how the deal would be good for the 220,000 Canadian families that depend on dairy for their livelihood.

For Forbes who owns a farm in Sarnia, where they milk about 200 cows, he said the concessions will affect cashflow for farmers.

"It's going to be another hit on the incomes of family farms across Canada," he said.

Hours after Ontario premier Doug Ford called for compensation, Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland said the agriculture industry will receive compensation for potential losses in the future.

Tracey Ramsey, who won the seat in Essex for the New Democrats on election night, said the Liberals' lack of a strategy on auto was concerning. (CBC)

New name, worse deal?

This version of NAFTA has been renamed as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

NDP MP Tracey Ramsey said the new deal is actually a worse deal than what the country had before.

"We've given up quite a bit," she said.

She slams the agreement from the steel and aluminum tariffs that haven't been alleviated to opening up the dairy market to the U.S., saying it's hard for Canadians to find anything positive out of the deal.

"We've kept a lot of things exactly the same, status quo," said Ramsey.

Kevin Forbes, a Sarnia dairy farmer, is still waiting on more details to come out in relation to dairy under the new deal. (CBC)

More information needed

Ontario dairy farmers planned to meet in Woodstock Monday and USMCA happened to finalize late Sunday night.

Forbes said everyone is still waiting for more information about details of the new agreement, in particular about the class 7 milk.

However, despite the sacrifices in dairy, he said the new deal puts the anxiety brewing over the year to rest.

"We don't enjoy losing portions of our business, but we're hoping that this alleviates the stress of other countries trying to gain more access to our market."

He's hopeful that consumers will continue to support Canadian dairy products so their farms can survive this bump.


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