As the clash between the U.S. and Canadian dairy industries escalates in the NAFTA talks, Dairy Farmers of Canada has found some allies in U.S. dairy outside of the U.S. Dairy Export Council and the National Milk Federation.
In the National Post on Friday, Darin Von Ruden, who has a 50-cattle, multi-generational farm and heads the Wisconsin Farmers Union was quoted: “Canada’s supply-management program might not be perfect. But it certainly is doing a good enough job to make sure that those farmers, especially on the dairy side in Canada, can continue to stay in business and hand that farm on to the next generation.”
As we covered from the Canadian Beef Industry Conference in Calgary this week, beef groups didn’t feel it was necessary to be in Washington for day one of NAFTA talks. The dairy lobby was on the ground in DC from the beginning, as they likely have the most to lose from NAFTA 2.0 if the USTR Robert Lighthizer gets his way.
I spoke to David Wiens, vice-president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, who is on the ground this week in DC, and asked him the following questions regarding this first week of NAFTA talks.
- The CCA beef officials were in Canada early this week as talks began while the DFC found it necessary to be in Washington. Why have you taken a different approach than your beef peers?
- There seems to be a lot of talk through the media — has DFC had direct talks with the U.S. dairy groups like the U.S. Dairy Export Council?
- At the root of the conflict is the new class 7 in Canada’s new national ingredient strategy. U.S. dairy industry officials allege Canada pays the highest prices for milk around the world and then dumps excess milk on the global market. What is your response to these accusations?
- Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stated that the talks would have drama and be rocky, Are you concerned that dairy may be the root of this and there could be mounting pressure from other Canadian ag groups?
- Are you concerned that the Trudeau government will not protect supply management like they have said?