A Saskatchewan producers’ group is firing back following Donald Trump’s comments blasting Canada’s dairy industry.
Trump tweeted June 10 after leaving the G7 summit in Quebec, reacting after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau criticizing his decision to impose tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum.
While Trump imposed the tariffs using national security provisions in a Cold War-era law, he tweeted June 10 that the tariffs were “… in response to (Trudeau’s tariffs) of 270% on dairy!”
Joy Smith, manager of policy and communications with SaskMilk, spoke Tuesday morning on The Brent Loucks Show.
She suggested Trump was cherry-picking his facts when tweeting about Canada’s supply management system, which restricts the amount farmers produce in order to support higher prices, while keeping out most imports using tariffs.
“(America) exports five times more dairy products to Canada than we do to them,” she explained, saying Canada allows the U.S. tariff-free access to about 10 per cent of its dairy market, while Canadian producers only get a crack at three per cent of the U.S. market.
Smith noted the American trade surplus on dairy is mostly supported by large subsidies paid to U.S. farmers, combined with tariff barriers to keep out other country’s products.
“So an open market would require that all of the tariffs go away on both sides of the border and all of the subsidies go away. And there’s a lot of subsidies in the U.S. for their dairy farms,” she said.
Smith noted that while many Canadian experts and consumers decry the higher dairy prices they see at the till compared to American shoppers, U.S. subsidies effectively hide a portion of the price of American milk.
“Whether you buy milk or not in the U.S., you’re paying for it in your taxes. Here, the way that this works is that the consumer who buys the product is paying to cover the cost of producing it,” she said.
Smith said different regulations around antibiotic testing and the use of hormones to stimulate dairy cows’ milk production also account for some of the price difference.
She also pointed out the supply management system is only one component of the price people pay for Canadian milk.
“Farmers don’t decide those prices. There’s a whole value chain that goes into that, through the processors, wholesalers, retailers — everything. Which is why, you know, you pay a lot more for milk at a convenience store than you do at a grocery store and farmers have no control over that.”