Future payouts from dairy fund still up for discussion

Ag groups rip lack of supports for other farming sectors

What happens to the rest of Canada’s eight-year, $1.75 billion funding envelope to compensate its dairy farmers for other countries’ gains in market access is still up for discussion, according to the federal ag minister.

In a statement Wednesday, Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Ottawa gets that Canadian dairy farmers want more direct payments beyond the $345 million already earmarked for those in the fund’s first year.

Bibeau’s statement followed a meeting with dairy producers from Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region to discuss the funding package.

“To clarify any comments regarding the delivery mechanism, I would like to make clear that we fully understand dairy farmers want direct compensation,” she said.

The government, she said, “will continue to work with the Dairy Farmers of Canada to determine terms and conditions for future years.”

The year-one round of direct payments, as announced last week, is expected to flow through the Canadian Dairy Commission and to be issued “in proportion to (farmers’) quota held.” A farm with an 80-cow dairy herd, for example, could expect a payout of around $28,000.

Response from farm groups to last week’s dairy funding announcement has been a mixed bag at best, with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture saying it “welcomes” Ottawa’s announcement but also highlighting the lack of similar funds for other ag sectors outside of the supply-managed.

“Farmers are under an immense amount of stress and anxiety as their livelihoods are being threatened by factors that are completely out of their control, with seemingly no end in sight,” CFA president Mary Robinson said in a release. “Without quick support, there will be long-term consequences to Canadian agriculture.”

Of the dairy funding, the CFA said it “commends” Ottawa’s recognition of the “negative consequences” arising from Canada’s recent international trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and Canada-E.U. trade pact (CETA).

However, the organization said Monday, “other sectors in Canadian agriculture, such as pork, beef and canola, have been equally negatively impacted by recent aggressive trade actions” such as China having “effectively closed” its ports to Canadian canola seed and pork.

“The impacted sectors require the same kind of government support that supply-managed sectors have received, whether through direct compensation or improved business risk management programming,” the CFA said.

“This disruption was not created by farmers, and instead is the result of geopolitical actions where the Canadian agriculture sector has become collateral damage.”

More bluntly, Western Canadian Wheat Growers president Gunter Jochum ripped Ottawa’s dairy funding pledge as “electioneering” ahead of the federal vote on Oct. 21.

“Dairy farmers in Quebec are receiving funding whereas grain farmers across the Prairies are only offered ways to increase their farm debt through the Advanced Payment Program,” he said, a reference to APP expansions announced in May.

The WCWG said Monday it got a “non-committal answer” on July 29 to a June 17 letter to Bibeau airing its concerns.

“All we want is free-market access to our trading partners. It seems that some farmers are more equal than others,” WCWG director Stephen Vandervalk said in the same release. — Glacier FarmMedia Network

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