Politics·Updated

Ottawa unveils funding for poultry and egg farmers hurt by free-trade deals

Canadian egg and poultry farmers who've lost domestic market share due to two recent free-trade agreements will have access to $691 million in federal cash. The money follows a previously announced $1.75 billion for the dairy sector linked to free-trade deals.

Agriculture minister announced the long-awaited funds on Saturday

Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau on Saturday shared details about the compensation, which follows a previously announced $1.75 billion for the dairy sector linked to free-trade deals with Europe and countries on the Pacific Rim. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Canadian egg and poultry farmers who've lost domestic market share due to two recent free-trade agreements will soon have access to $691 million in federal cash, Canada's agriculture minister announced Saturday.

Marie-Claude Bibeau shared details of the long-awaited funds in a virtual news conference.

"Today we position our young farmers for growth and success tomorrow," she said.

The money follows a previously announced $1.75 billion for the dairy sector linked to free-trade deals with Europe and countries on the Pacific Rim, one that came into effect in 2017 and the other in 2018.

The dairy sector funds were to flow over eight years, and the first $345 million payment was sent out last year.

But on Saturday, Bibeau announced a schedule for the remaining payments that will see the money flow over three years — beginning with $468 million in 2020-21, $469 million in 2021-22 and $468 million in 2022-23.

Bibeau said the most recently announced funds for dairy farmers amount to an average farm of 80 cows receiving a direct payment of $38,000 in the first year.

Payments based on formulas

David Wiens, vice-president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada, said the money will help farms make investments for the future.

"I think particularly for the younger farmers who have really struggled since these agreements have been ratified, they can actually now see opportunities, how they can continue to make those investments on the farm so that they can continue on," he said.

The most recently announced funds for dairy farmers amount to an average farm of 80 cows receiving a direct payment of $38,000 in the first year. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

The payments are based on formulas devised by working groups formed after the trade deals were signed, Bibeau said.

What that means is the money doesn't reflect precisely how much the various industries have lost due to the deals, she said.

"It's really our best understanding of the future impact and to give them the possibility to adapt."

Trading partners sought more Canadian access for products

The dairy, poultry and egg industries in Canada are regulated to ensure a steady income for farmers in that sector, but Canada's foreign trade partners argue the system is protectionist.

That made the trio of industries a sticking point in three separate trade deals Canada has concluded in recent years: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with Europe (CETA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Canada-United States-Mexico Trade Agreement (CUSMA).

Trading partners wanted more Canadian access for their products, which Canadian suppliers said would result in massive hits to their bottom line.

The federal government's March 2019 budget had in turn allocated up to $3.9 billion in compensation for the trade concessions made on supply management.

The funds announced by Bibeau on Saturday are linked only to CETA and the CPTPP, but she said the latest arrangement does use up the balance of the previously announced funds.

"I think it's a great day because there's something on the table," said Benoit Fontaine, chair of Chicken Farmers of Canada, who said he had yet to see the details of the funding arrangement for his sector.

The money announced on Saturday comes ahead of Monday's reveal of the fiscal fortunes of the Liberal government in the form of an economic update. It is expected to lay out how much has been spent on emergency COVID-19 related programming but also outline some new spending in other areas.

Bibeau said the funds announced on Saturday will be reflected there but that the amount to be set aside as compensation for the Canada-U.S.-Mexico deal is still being decided.

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