Ottawa to talk compensation with dairy farmers for Canada-EU trade deal

The federal government will meet Canadian dairy farmers within 30 days to discuss a compensation package designed to ease any pain caused by Canada signing the Canada-European Union trade deal.

Announcement 'a good first step,' dairy farmers say

The federal government will meet with Canadian dairy farmers within 30 days to discuss compensation for the industry when Canada signs the Canadian-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement. (Terry Reith/CBC))

The federal government will meet Canadian dairy farmers within 30 days to discuss a compensation package designed to ease any pain caused by Canada signing the Canada-European Union trade deal.

"An appropriate mitigation package is necessary for the Canadian dairy industry," read a statement issued Monday by Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland.

"Our conversations will address, among other issues, transition support for producers and processors, as well as proposed program and investment options," the Monday statement said. "The government remains committed to the supply management sector."

After the Liberal government tabled its first budget, questions emerged about a $4.3-billion compensation package for Canadian farm groups that had been negotiated with Stephen Harper's Conservative government. Funding for that package was not included in spending estimates for the Liberals' first budget.

The compensation package was not only designed to help farmers ease into the Canadian-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) but also the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Freeland signed in February.

Monday's statement, however, was focused on addressing dairy farmers' concerns about CETA.

"This government was drawing a sizable deficit and we did not see any compensation measures in the budget, so taking this step, and making this announcement ... is a very good first step," said Trevor Hargreaves, director of producer relations and communications for the B.C. Dairy Association.

Wally Smith, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, welcomed the news in a brief statement posted on the association's website.

"Dairy Farmers of Canada are relieved that the government is committing to the long-awaited compensation, and is looking forward to working together to discuss what it will look like," he said.

The government said in its statement Monday that the CETA deal remains a priority and it is "focused on swift ratification."