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Oxford County farmer says dairy supply management could be 'under threat' with TPP

An Oxford County farmer is concerned supply management of Canadian dairy products could be under threat if the Conservatives go forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Dairy farmers are seen during a recent protest against the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement that was held in Ottawa. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

An Oxford County farmer is concerned supply management of Canadian dairy products could be under threat if the Conservatives go forward with the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

CBC first reported Friday that Canada is preparing to open the border to more American milk, without getting reciprocal access for Canadian dairy farmers in the United States.

Oxford County, where Clair Doan farms, bills itself as the "dairy capital of Canada." He said farmers in his area are paying close attention.

"They're aware that change may be imminent and that these negotiations have been ongoing for a number of years," Doan said, who grew up on a dairy farm. "However, just recently I think the customers have really been asking and been speaking about what does it mean, what could it mean and so certainly there is an unknown."

But Conservative candidate Dave MacKenzie, the incumbent in the riding of Oxford, said the farmers need not be worried with whatever the outcome of the TPP negotiations might be.

"I think at this point they know they want to be protected. We've always protected supply management. We'll protect supply management going forward and that's their concern," MacKenzie said. "We haven't talked in depth in compensation but they do know that we will compensate if there is any chance to the current program."

However, Doan isn't so sure.

He said supply management consists of three "solid pillars." That's production management, to ensure the domestic needs of Canadian consumers are met, a pricing strategy that includes a fair cost of production with a fair rate of return for farmers and import control.

"But the third pillar that's really under question," he said. "So with one of those pillars being under threat, in my opinion, all of supply management is under threat."

When asked how MacKenzie and the Conservatives would protect the dairy industry, he responded, "by retaining supply management programs."

"What's on the table from what I've read from you people and others is access to Canadian markets, supply management is not on the table," he added. "It's access to certain products."

Trade minister Ed Fast is currently in Atlanta with chief negotiators from the 12 countries discussing the deal.

MacKenzie says the Conservative party is keeping him up to date on the Atlanta discussions, but all he would say about the progress is that "negotiations are ongoing."

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