Letter to the Editor: Editorial critical of supply system

We cannot allow foreign governments to put our farmers out of business. Our own food sovereignty is at stake, states Trail Times reader.

Alex Atamanenko pens Letter to the Editor in response to a Trail Times article published Nov. 2.

The op-ed in the Nov. 2 edition of the Trail Times entitled “Ratifying CETA Was the Easy Part” is highly critical of Canada’s supply management system.

In my opinion, this is not a fair assessment of an orderly system that has enabled farmers to earn a decent living from the marketplace while providing quality dairy, poultry and egg products to Canadians.

During almost a decade as Member of Parliament I was able to learn a great deal about Canadian agriculture. I would often hear testimonies at the Standing Committee by farmers and farming organizations desperately seeking federal government assistance to weather market fluctuations often due to so-called “free trade” policies.

Our beef and pork producers, for example, were often at the mercy of open markets and U.S. protectionism. Many were forced out of business. While they and others struggled to survive the supply managed sector remained stable without the need for government assistance.

The system is very simple: a quota system and high tariffs to keep other countries from flooding our market with often subsidized milk, chicken and eggs. Our farmers, contrary to the author of the op-ed, are competitive.

For example, if one looks at the average price of a litre of milk in Canada, the U.S. (not just the border), New Zealand and Europe, it is roughly the same. Supply management is also a major economic driver in B.C.’s Fraser Valley as well as in Ontario and Quebec.

By allowing CETA and other free trade agreements to destabilize the system our rural communities will suffer.

For example, if CETA is ratified 17,000 tons of foreign artisan cheese will flood the Canadian market and make it difficult for small producers to compete. It is wrong to allow government subsidised European farmers to destroy the livelihood of our farmers who do not cost the Canadian tax payer a penny.

Ironically, the former federal government committed to giving financial help to those farmers affected. This does not make any business sense.

The Liberals have always been very supportive of supply management. It is difficult to see why they would agree to put this important agriculture sector on the table when negotiating free trade agreements.

We cannot allow foreign governments to put our farmers out of business. Our own food sovereignty is at stake.

Alex Atamanenko

Castlegar

 

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