The Current

Should the U.S. adopt Canada's supply management system in order to save its dairy farmers?

U.S. President Donald Trump has said high tariffs and Canada's supply management system are hurting American dairy farmers, who are already struggling to make ends meet. While some argue the U.S. could solve those problems by adopting a similar system, others warn it can be bad for consumers, and for global trade.

Donald Trump blames Canadian system for hardship on U.S. farmers, but one farmer thinks there's more to it

Canada's supply management system puts quotas on the amount of milk that farmers are allowed to produce, eliminating over-production, which can drive down prices. (Sean Kilpatrick/CP)

Read Story Transcript

Low milk prices and a glut in production are forcing U.S. dairy farmers out of business every day, according to a Wisconsin farmer who has suffered the same fate.

"We can't work for free anymore," said Kyle Kurt, who milked dairy cows for 18 years before deciding to sell his farm in April.

"It was actually at the point where it was less than free," he told The Current's guest host Connie Walker. "I wasn't getting enough to pay my bills."

Despite falling prices, the U.S. is increasing production every year, creating a surplus. More than 100 million gallons of milk were dumped into American farm fields in 2016. Wisconsin produces more milk than the entirety of Canada. Prices are now so low that 500 dairy farms closed in the state last year.

"We can't keep producing more and more milk, and not have a home for it," Kurt said. "That's foolish and kind of reckless."

U.S. President Donald Trump has blamed Canada for the issue, arguing that the country's supply management system and high tariffs unfairly exclude U.S. producers from the Canadian market.

The system puts quotas on the amount of milk that farmers are allowed to produce, eliminating over-production, which can drive down prices. It costs the government nothing because consumers pay more for dairy products.

Is Canada's system to blame? Or if the U.S. were to adopt a similar system, could it be the solution?

To discuss the issue, The Current's guest host Connie Walker spoke with:

  • Bruce Muirhead, professor of history at the University of Waterloo, who argues that supply management is the best system for industries on both sides of the border
  • Martha Hall Findlay, president and CEO of the Canada West Foundation, who thinks the system is bad for consumers and bad for global business

Listen to the full discussion near the top of this page.

This segment was produced by The Current's Julie Crysler, Kristin Nelson and Richard Raycraft.


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