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Lakeshore woman may find holes in her cheese business with threat of Trump-imposed tariffs

The threat of a trade war between Canada and the U.S. has Sarah Barrette wondering if her business, The Cheese Bar, will cease to exist.

Sarah Barrette runs The Cheese Bar out of her garage in Emeryville, Ont.

Sarah Barrette runs The Cheese Bar out of her garage in Emeryville, Ont. and buys artisanal cheese from local dairy producers. Without them, her business may cease to exist. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

The threat of a trade war between Canada and the U.S. has a Lakeshore woman wondering if her cheese business will cease to exist.

Sarah Barrette, who runs The Cheese Bar out of her garage in Emeryville, Ont., was about to sign a contract to open up a storefront operation. But after seeing U.S. President Donald Trump's disapproval with Canadian tariffs imposed on dairy products, Barrette has second thoughts.

"There's definitely an alarm going off in the back of my head ... It's quite scary," she said.

The Cheese Bar sells a large selection of 30 cheese varieties from six dairy producers across Ontario. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

Trump has made Canada's supply-managed dairy industry and tariffs imposed on imported American products a major issue in the dispute that took place over the weekend with President Donald Trump. 

For Barrette, 80 per cent of the dairy she sells in her store comes from producers in southwestern Ontario. 

"If they're not producing cheese, I don't know what I'm going to do. It would impact me in the worst way ... My entire concept about 'supporting local' and 'purchasing local' would go by the way-side," Barrette said.

Barette said she does not follow the news too much, but is going to start doing so now that her business is on the line. The store recently celebrated its three-year anniversary in May.

Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois says, the dairy sector in Canada could collapse overnight if the nation follows the Trump regime. (Radio-Canada)

Canadian dairy would collapse says professor

U.S. President Donald Trump wants Canada to dismantle its supply-managed dairy system, inciting a dramatic curtailing of the trading relationship between the two countries.

"If we follow the Trump regime, we would see the dairy sector in Canada collapse overnight," Dalhousie University professor Sylvain Charlebois said.

Canada 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.

It's a number which seems steep, but it accounts for just a fraction of the $628 billion in trade the two countries do with each other every year.

"If we see the collapse of the dairy industry, you would likely see Canadians consume dairy products coming from America ... It's expensive to develop the Canadian market."

Charlebois said prices may drop initially but may increase to levels higher than ever seen before over time.

One of many who are concerned

Sarah Berette isn't the only person in the dairy industry concerned about Trump's recent tariff threat.

On Tuesday, Trudeau and Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay made an impromptu visit to a pop-up diner in Ottawa where a supply management event was being held. It was hosted by several farm associations which represent supply-managed farmers and producers of eggs, chicken, turkey, and dairy.

Later in the evening, the Prime Minister had a private meeting on Parliament Hill with the Dairy Farmers of Canada, where they discussed the ongoing trade tensions with the U.S.

with files from the CBC's Stacey Janzer

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