BY JOHN WOOD
In 1953, Amalgamated Dairies Limited (ADL) was formed by seven community dairy co-ops in an effort to modernize the industry for the future. The ADL board at that time understood the need for pooled investment and local decision-making to provide service to member-owners and modernize and grow the industry.
The company has evolved over 65 years; however, the board’s commitment to community and continued investment in the local P.E.I. economy has not changed.
Dairy farming and milk processing are embedded as part of the P.E.I. economy, culture and a very important component within the provincial agriculture sector. Our fertile land and balanced climate have proven a natural fit for dairy production. P.E.I. is the largest per capita producer of cheese in Canada, an industry leader in cow genetics, industry leader in milk quality programs, and has received numerous industry awards and accolades.
The co-op movement is also an important aspect of our business history and economic fabric of P.E.I. This model allowed for primary producers in agriculture and fisheries to pool their assets and have some influence in the value chain.
The dairy industry has been, and continues to be, a major builder of the P.E.I. economy. Historic investment at the farm level and at the processor level has made significant contributions to the province’s growth in GDP and exports in recent years. It is our desire to see that trend continue and grow.
Trade is vital to our local P.E.I. economy and to Canada. The Canadian federal government must be cautious when pursuing trade agreements built on taxpayer subsidies and over-production which can lead to lower prices for our primary producers, which is the case for dairy farmers in the U.S. and Europe.
The USMCA (new NAFTA) is now the third trade deal to provide significant access to the Canadian dairy market. It is the first trade deal to give up control and decision-making on dairy trade and domestic policy to a foreign nation. When trade policy results in negative consequences for particular industries in places like the U.S. and Europe, government has been stepping in to support industry with compensation and periodic subsidies.
It is unfortunate that Canadian negotiators once again used the Canadian dairy industry as a bargaining chip when it is widely-known that the mere 35 million Canadian consumers will not offer any substantial or real relief to the suffering American dairy industry.
When trying to see the path forward, it often helps to understand where we came from. Canada has been known globally for having a dairy industry that is strong, innovative and fair to the consumer and producer. The recent announcement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada on a modernized NAFTA clearly threatens the future strength of our dairy industry.
Under the USMCA (the new NAFTA) Canadian dairy producers are expected to provide substantial market access for very little in return. The 165 dairy producers on P.E.I. rely on five ADL processing plants spread out across the Island to process milk into finished product. The ADL board and membership are very concerned about the new USMCA and the impacts it will have on the Canadian dairy industry, P.E.I. economy and, most importantly, P.E.I. farm families.
- John Wood, president, Amalgamated Dairies Limited