Healthy Canadian dairy industry irks Donald Trump

Andrew Cummings
April 20, 2017

Trump levelled the threats - some of his strongest-ever anti-Canadian rhetoric - during an event at a Wisconsin factory where he unveiled his "Buy American-Hire American" executive order.

On Tuesday, Trump told an audience of dairy farmers in Wisconsin that he would stand up for their livelihoods.

This is not the first time Canada's dairy industry has been criticised for being overly protectionist.

Canada has marketing boards that decide how much milk, poultry and eggs will be sold each year in Canada, then sets a minimum price while keeping foreign dairy products out because that would "screw this whole system up", the Toronto-based National Post newspaper reported in an story on price fixing last fall. It had been duty-free but Canada changed course after its milk producers complained.

Canada's ambassador to the USA has also chimed in on the debate, suggesting that Trump is wrong to blame Canada for Wisconsin's dairy woes.

Trump said he will work with Wisconsin's elected officials to solve a trade dispute with Canada that has left some dairy farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and NY without a buyer for their milk.

U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said that he and Gov. Scott Walker had briefed President Trump on the dairy dispute.

"We are going to stand up for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin. that demands really, immediately fair trade with all our trading partners, and that includes Canada", Trump said during an appearance in Wisconsin, which along with NY could lose hundreds of millions of dollars if the dispute is not resolved. The tax was applied due to pressure from Canadian farmers because the product added to that flooded market.

During a visit to Kenosha, Wis., on Tuesday, Trump said he would seek to resolve the matter.

The 2015 imported $22 billion in agricultural products from Canada, according to the U.S. Trade Representative.

He attached a February 17 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that he said showed the American industry's woes were the result of "U.S. and global overproduction" of milk. "As made clear in the report, Canada is not a contributor to the overproduction problem". But apparently, Prairie canola farmers are not as important to the political elite as their milk-cow-raising counterparts in Ontario and Quebec, the country's two largest dairy-producing provinces by far. "Because in Canada some very unfair things have happened to our dairy farmers and others".

That's not because U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed the Canadian system is unfair to U.S. farmers.

Despite the tough talk, he said the relationship with the new Trump administration has been extremely positive, and his office will continue to work on finding solutions to disputes. He vowed to "call Canada" (on the red phone, presumably) "to get the solution and not just the answer, because we know what the solution is".

"We also call on the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria to join with Farmer Power in lobbying the Victorian state government for this action". And that means it will likely be on the table of any future NAFTA renegotiation.

Luis Ribera, an agriculture economics expert at Texas A&M University, said that while the ultra-filtered milk issue may technically fall outside the scope of NAFTA, it is a sign of USA anger towards Canada's supply management system.

"We're going to make some very big changes", he said. The pricing agreement was a response to growing US exports of milk proteins that were not subject to Canada's high tariffs.

With the President looking to tinker with NAFTA, the dairy-trade issue could be a point of considerable debate.

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