The Globe and Mail: July 2015

Contrary to recent media reports about the relationship between the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Canada’s system of supply management, the abolition of supply management is, in fact, a lose-lose scenario for Canadians. Canada’s supply management system is in place for a reason; it provides stability for farmers and consumers.

Every dollar a farmer spends supports a business somewhere else in Canada. For example, Canada’s chicken farmers create jobs not only in farming but through the value chain.

Supply management is a cornerstone of agricultural lending; the stable revenue stream allows producers to pay back their loans without business risk-management payments or government bailouts. With that confidence, they reinvest with confidence in the communities they serve.

It makes sense, therefore, that the Ontario Agriculture Minister, Jeff Leal, is a staunch supporter of supply management. In a recent interview, he credited supply management from saving rural Ontario from “total collapse” during an outbreak of BSE – because stable revenues from one sector allowed all the other businesses that serve farmers to ride out the downturn.

When  countries dedicate themselves solely to exports, they expose themselves to the volatility of the world market – and recently, the world market in supply-managed goods has been very volatile. An examination of the global milk market recently conducted by Dr. Bruce Muirhead found that in 2014, due to slowing growth and increasing domestic production in China, export-oriented dairy farmers in New Zealand were being paid 50 per cent less than 2013, and well below their cost of production: a situation supply management is designed to avoid through an emphasis on stable, orderly marketing for domestic demand.

Canadian wineries should be applauded for the hard work they have done to restructure.  They now deliver on consumer expectations – supply management does the same thing, but that’s where the comparison ends. Canadian wineries export about $70 million, whereas the Canadian chicken industry, only one of five supply management industries, exports total over $260 million. While they are complementary in so many ways, you really can’t compare chicken and wine.

Canadians are increasingly demanding that their food be produced locally, and at a smaller scale. Canadian farms are among the most efficient in the world, and supply management contributes to the continued success of smaller-scale agriculture. Some family-run egg farms in Nova Scotia possess fewer than 500 laying hens, and supply management ensures that those smaller, local farms can continue to thrive.

The abolition of supply management exposes Canada to ever-higher levels of risk, forces smaller farms to shut their doors, allows foreign companies to capture ever-greater shares of our domestic food market, and risks ending  Canadians’ guarantee of fresh, high-quality Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs in their local grocery stores.

We must be sure that any decision we make on supply management benefits Canada as a whole, not a handful of export interests. And when I look at what we’d lose, I’m not convinced that it will.

Dave Janzen
Chicken Farmers of Canada