The Dairy Farmers of Manitoba took exception to a fiery trade speech from U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.
In a speech to factory workers in Wisconsin, Trump took aim at Canadian dairy regulations, saying that NAFTA trade rules between the U.S. and Canada are a "complete and total disaster" for the U.S.
The president specifically mentioned Canada's dairy supply management system, which he called a "one-sided deal" that doesn't let U.S. farmers compete fairly.
David Wiens, a third-generation dairy farmer near Grunthal, Man., and chair of the Dairy Farmers of Manitoba, said that the Canadian industry isn't responsible for issues south of the border.
"We have not contributed or created problems for them. I think they need to look within their own industry in terms of how they could better respond to the marketplace that they are in," said Wiens.
The Canadian policy allows the domestic dairy sector to respond to changes in the industry and gives farmers reliability in an otherwise unpredictable market, Wiens said.
"In Canada, supply management is literally about matching supply with demand, and for us that avoids over production and it reduces the impact of the devastating market fluctuations that we do see right around the world, including in the U.S." said Wiens.
The Dairy Farmers of Canada said Tuesday it was confident the federal government would continue to defend the dairy industry.
No udder way
Martha Hall Findlay, the president of the Canada West Foundation, has called for the dismantling of the current supply management system.
She said the system costs consumers more, prevents producers from tapping into foreign markets and the perception of unfair advantages in the domestic dairy market hinder Canada's ability to negotiate trade deals in other sectors.
"We go to the table with Donald Trump right now with one hand, one arm, tied behind our backs," said Hall Findlay.
Hall Findlay also said revisiting the current system now could be a win-win situation for Canada and that there are ways to move away from it with minimal impacts on producers.
"Nobody wants to hurt Canadian dairy farmers ... It can be done over time, certainly in terms of compensation," she said.
A lot of criticisms the Canadian dairy industry faces come from people who do not fully understand all that supply management provides for farmers, Wiens said, adding farmers fully expect the Canadian government will continue to support the dairy industry.
"Simply put, the U.S., and for that matter, for the last couple of years, right around the world, there has been too much milk produced," he said.
"This oversupply in the U.S. is especially a challenge where there is a lack of processing capacity. All of those things come together to create very tough times."