Liberal tiff over supply management?

- February 5th, 2013

Federal Liberal leadership hopefuls argued about more than housekeeping at last Saturday’s debate in Winnipeg.

Canada’s agriculture supply management policy for dairy, eggs and poultry – and where candidates stand on the issue – also made some waves.

And the topic appears to have started a beef between contestant Martha Hall Findlay – who wants to scrap the policy – and Liberal MP Wayne Easter, a Justin Trudeau supporter

Easter sent this letter to Hall Findlay this week (see below)

I’ve reached out to the Hall Findlay camp but have yet to hear back.  A link to the report in question can be found here.

Letter to Martha Hall Findlay


I have noted in your Leadership Campaign you are using the discredited paper you and the Calgary School of Economics put together and claiming that doing away with supply management will mean cheap milk for all Canadians. This is just simply wrong.

As you are well aware, your paper regarding supply management and the public statements you have made recommending the Harper government end this system and suggesting that if you were in a position to do so, ending supply management would be a priority have raised many concerns.

As an elected Member of Parliament representing a rural riding, the former President of the National Farmers Union, a former dairy farmer and a member of the Liberal Party of Canada, I share those concerns. In fact, one of the priority resolutions of the Liberal Party is to support supply management and yet you purport to run for the Leader on a policy that Liberal members have made a priority- strange indeed.

My concerns are not with respect to your right to hold the opinion you do; my concern stems from points your paper did not discuss and more importantly with respect to your declaration, that it would be your intent to terminate this system if given the opportunity.

Before discussing the contents of your paper not referenced, allow me to address the correction you were compelled to make as a result of facts presented to you in regards to the pricing of milk. According to your amended paper at p. 9 you have now indicated that “a family that buys an average of 4 litres of milk a week will pay close to $150 a year more than they should, just for milk.” In your original document you stated, with equal certainty, that the same family would pay “$300 a year more than they should, just for milk.”

The first point I would make is that an error of this nature – which is at the heart of your argument – is clearly not acceptable and was challenged from the time your paper was released.

Briefly with respect to your paper, I would point to two points not referenced. The first is with respect to US subsidies which are directly and indirectly targeted to their dairy industry. The second is with respect to the position of Liberal and Conservative governments since 1994 of opposing the use in Canada of the bovine growth hormone recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST).

I would submit the following evidence regarding US subsidy programming:

Between 1995 and 2010 the US government paid out in dairy subsidies $4.8 billion.

Between 1995 and 2010 the US government paid out $77.1 billion.

Between 1995 and 2010 the US government paid out $167.3 billion in commodity subsidies (this does not include crop insurance, disaster or conservation subsidies).

Even the new US Farm Bill “does not fundamental challenges in agriculture where corporate concentration and extreme price volatility continue to put farmers at risk.”

Sources: for specific data – Environmental Working Group (EWG) 2011 Farm Subsidy Database on website. For the quote – Institute for Agriculture & Trade Policy (IATP) Press Release, May 3, 2012

According to one analysis the total US subsidy to dairy in the US amounts to $31 per hectolitre or 31 cents per litre. Again my concern is that there is no reference in your paper, original or revised to this fact.

With respect to the second point concerning the use in Canada of the bovine growth hormone rBST:

  • It was the Liberal Party through the Agriculture Committee, of which I was a member of, who in 1994 conducted hearings into the submission by Monsanto to register for use in Canada this growth Hormone. The pitch was that the use of the hormone would increase milk production per dairy cow.
  • In a supply management system, with the expertise in breeding that Canada had accomplished, there was no need for this growth hormone.
  • Concerns were raised at the committee with respect to issues related to both animal and human health issues which Monsanto could not respond to in a manner that satisfied neither our committee nor Health Canada.
  • Any review of that debate will reveal that the Canadian public overwhelmingly opposed the introduction into our dairy system of this growth hormone.
  • Currently in the United States an estimated 17.2% of all dairy cows are injected with this growth hormone – which incidentally, is not required to be labelled on the final product made available to consumers. The size of the US dairy herd is estimated at more than 9.2 million animals – roughly ten times the size of the Canadian herd.
  • It was pointed out that Canada imports approximately 31.8 million kilograms or litres of milk from the US while Canadian producers sell an estimated 7.88 billion litres annually.
  • An open border would expose Canadian consumers – on an as yet undetermined scale – to exposure to a growth hormone they have refused to accept and their federal government has refused to approve.

I would remind you that the current position of the Liberal Party, as passed by the members of the Liberal Party of Canada, is that we as a Party have and continue to support and endorse our agricultural supply management system. As an MP elected in seven general elections the defence of supply management has been and remains at the core of the Liberal principles I present to the electorate.

My question therefore is this: if you were to gain the Leadership of the Liberal Party and it maintains as a result of Resolutions passed at Convention a firm and resolute position supporting supply management, what position will you take – will you accept the will of the membership and endorse our support for supply management or will you seek to implement the position you have publicly endorsed, namely the elimination of a system that has worked for farmers and consumers alike and has made it possible to have the highest quality of milk and dairy products without subsidies of any kind.

I look forward to your response to these concerns and questions.


Wayne Easter



Categories: Economy, General, Liberals, Politics

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  1. Gerry says:

    Will Wayne Easter and others including the dairy farmers of Canada sign letters of guarantee that no growth hormones are used in the production of Canadian milk? Stories persist about the use despite the illegality of it …. what stops farmers from importing the Monsanto product from the USA or Europe themselves?
    In the USA there are more products available at retail daily that declare the products to have no growth hormones added or made from milk containing no growth hormones added. Saying the product Contains no Growth Hormones is incorrect since it is naturally present in all milk – the question is has any been added. Perhaps Wayne should check his facts.

    USA processors can pay a slight premium for that assurance from suppliers and then openly honestly declare it on their labels.
    Same applies to the massive amounts of milk imported into Canada for production of goods for re-export (IREP). Processors asking for it get it and with guarantees.

  2. sj says:

    food security

    two words

    what are the staples that we need to ensure are available in Canada

    What if there are only 200 dairy farmers in Canada? What if there are only 20? or 2?

    I loathe the Liberal party (actually hate them) cough, adscam kickbacks corruption

    Within the free market economy, a country must protect National interests. Locally sourced food staples is a necessity. Since we do exist beside a country that could theoretically supply those basic food staples, it does not mean we should rely on them. Maintenance of a local supply of basic food staple is in our national interest.

    Would you rely on a foreign country supplying us with our basic food supplies of milk, eggs, meat? I do not, and neither should any Canadian.

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