Supply management provides stability in uncertain economic seas

  • National Newswatch

There has been debate in recent days about the prices of Canada-US consumer goods, and, inevitably, some discussion about food and dairy prices. It's important to ensure Canadians have the facts.Things generally cost more in Canada - from toys, to sports equipment to books to food. Sometimes dairy products cost more, but not always!Of course, retail prices vary from store-to-store, not based on farm price, but what retailers feel is competitive. That is true in Canada, in the US and elsewhere in the world.On average, milk is a dollar to $1.50 a litre in Canada – depending on where you shop and what format you buy. American consumers also pay similar prices – and yes, sometimes lower if they are located near border towns that want to attract Canadians. However, Americans pay twice, once at the check-out and also through taxes contributing to farm subsidies.The retail price of milk is cheaper in Canada than in New Zealand. The land portrayed as the dairy wonder is in trouble; after a year of record high prices and opportunities for dairy down under, some regions that depend heavily on the dairy economy may be heading into an economic recession because of farm prices going down too much.In New Zealand, dairy farmers were already getting less for their milk at the farmgate (which creates lots of uncertainty for their farm businesses) with NZ consumers seeing no benefit at the checkout. New Zealand consumers pay more than Canadians for milk, and New Zealand farmers receive less.Is that the kind of system we want?Canadian dairy farmers – and other Canadians - say no. A good number of surveys have repeatedly found Canadians are willing to pay more for local food.Dairy products are great value and quality; and consumers don't have to pay more for local dairy products they trust! A recent Guelph University study shows that for the second year in a row, dairy products are the only category where prices are decreasing.On whether supply management is an issue for trade deals, the fact is, since 2006, Canada has concluded trade agreements with 38 countries – 43 overall. Quite simply, no, the system is not an impediment to Canada's trade agenda.Supply management is an anchor that provides stability or confidence in an otherwise uncertain economic sea. Dairy farmers invest in their farm business to innovate, support local jobs and care for their animals; all while they can cover the costs of producing quality Canadian milk from the marketplace.Unlike many consumer goods sold in Canada, dairy farms in our Canadian neighborhoods provide local jobs and economic activity.Wally Smith, a dairy farmer in British Columbia, is president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada.