WEST DEVON - When he’s not milking cows or baling straw, Dairy Farmers of P.E.I. chairman Harold MacNevin is keeping a close eye on negotiations taking place in the reopened North American Free Trade Agreement.
The West Devon farmer said Canada gave up additional access in the last two trade deals it negotiated so the industry is hoping for no further erosion this time around.
He noted Canada has already given tariff-free access to close to 10 per cent of its domestic dairy market.
“We’ve had our turn,” he said, suggesting that negotiators leave the dairy industry alone in this round. “We’ve certainly had our share of access granted under trade agreements.” He noted the US already enjoys a five-dollars-to-one dairy trade surplus with Canada.
MacNevin is pleased the Canadian dairy industry has “feet-on-the-ground” during the negotiations.
“We try to be present to make sure we’re kept up-to-date on current negotiations, and also to stress the need to protect our industry. So, we’re just doing what everybody else is doing.”
He added that individual producers have a role to play in safeguarding their industry, too.
“It’s up to all the producers across Canada to contact their local MPs to stress the need to be fair in these negotiations when it comes to dairy and not give up additional access,” he said, suggesting it is effective for producers to explain to their local member of parliament how giving up market access will impact the Canadian industry and the individual producers.
MacNevin welcomed Wednesday’s statement from Premier Wade MacLauchlan in which he pledged his government’s support for the Island dairy industry and the supply management system.
Commenting on the five-to-one balance of trade advantage in dairy sales, the premier suggested the real issue is American overproduction of dairy products, all with U.S. government subsidization.