SaskMilk swings back after Trump NAFTA comments

By JT Marshall/CJME News Staff
April 19, 2017 - 12:47pm

The Sask. dairy industry is sour over comments made by US President Donald Trump on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump’s decision to call out Canada by name Tuesday put dairy farmers north of the border on notice they were in America's fair-trade sights.

"It wasn't a surprise to us, but we don't know exactly what he's targeting at the moment," said Joy Smith, the manager of policy with SaskMilk.

Trump said he's focusing on Canada's management system that protects the dairy industry.

Smith, however, defended the system and said without it the rest of the world is in a situation where they're producing a milk surplus.

"When a surplus is produced, the price drops and that's what's happening to everyone else," she said.

Trump also signalled he wants to do more than simply tweak NAFTA, saying he’s looking for "very big changes" to the trilateral pact that includes Mexico – or else he will scrap it once and for all.

During her interview on Gorrmley Wednesday, Smith acknowledged the Canadian quota system is a trade burden.

"We do allow pretty significant access to the Canadian market, but we definitely do protect the rest of it," she said.

Smith noted the quota system is about making sure all Canadians have dairy products before shipping anything outside the borders.

Wisconsin farmers said they're feeling the effects of Canada's decision to impose import taxes on ultra-filtered milk, a protein liquid concentrate used to make cheese.

It had been duty-free, but Canada changed course after its milk producers complained.

A spokeswoman for Canada's dairy industry said Tuesday night there have not been any new taxes on dairy imports.

Smith said one of the reasons American farmers are taking issue with Canadian milk right now is because it's cheaper.

"Processors still have the choice to purchase wherever, but buy Canadian milk because we have a more competitive price," she said.


– With files from The Canadian Press.

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