Making the case for supply management

As Canada negotiates the Trans Pacific Partnership, Canadian dairy farmers worry it means the end of supply management - a system that protects farmers from competition. Several economists, think-tanks, and newspaper editorialists think that would be a good thing. We hear the other side.

Canadian Dairy Farmers worry for the future of supply management, the system that protects farmers from foreign competition, and sets the price of milk. Canada is in negotiations to create the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade and investment treaty with 11 other Pacific countries. Despite assurances from the government, dairy farmers worry open borders will mean the end of government protection.

Supply management has three components: A quota system to limit supply, marketing boards to set a fixed price, and high tariffs to reduce foreign imports. Economists and think-tanks like the Montreal Economic Institute say supply management hurts consumers, and enriches already well-off dairy farmers. Ending supply management is a frequent request in newspaper columns and editorials, such as this one from the National Post.

Despite a solid push from economists and the press, Canada's politicians support supply management. The NDP, Liberals, and Conservatives all support the status quo, while only the Green Party has a policy of phasing out protections.

Even so, Canada's dairy farmers are on the defensive, recently launching a PR campaign called "The Milkle-Down Effect", arguing that the protections extended to dairies benefit all Canadians. In an interview with the CBC's Stephen Quinn, BC dairy farmer, and board member of Dairy Farmers of Canada, rejects the idea that supply management unfairly hurts consumers, especially when comparing milk prices to the United States.

The milk that they pour on their cornflakes is probably cheaper in the United States than here. It's just a fact of life that things are more expensive in Canada across the board. It's just supply management and dairy products seem to be an easy target- David Janssens, board member of Dairy Farmers of Canada


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