N.B. dairy farmers fire back at Trump over trade claims

1 / 4
N.B. dairy farmers fire back at Trump over trade claims

Dairy farmers in New Brunswick and the rest of the country are rejecting U.S. President Donald Trump's claims the Canadian dairy industry is to blame for setbacks experienced by dairy farmers south of the border, particularly in New York and Wisconsin.

While speaking in Wisconsin yesterday – the heart of dairy country in the U.S. – Trump called trade rules on dairy between the two countries a "complete and total disaster" for the U.S., saying Canada's dairy supply management system is a "one-sided deal" that doesn't let U.S. farmers compete fairly.

A growing trade war between the two countries has been brewing in recent months over one particular product — ultrafiltered milk, which is used in the production of cheese.

Last year, Canadian processors started buying ultrafiltered milk from domestic suppliers at competitive prices, wiping away demand for the U.S. product.

About 70 producers in Wisconsin and New York affected by the change have been struggling since, and have lobbied the U.S. government for action.

Reint Dykstra, a dairy farmer of 30 years in Salisbury, is used to hearing comments such as Trump's, saying Canada's supply management system — which regulates production of dairy, as well as chickens, turkeys and eggs by using a quota system and fixed prices, designed to ensure farmers stay in business — is often the subject of trade fears.

"They're disappointing comments — not unexpected," said Dykstra. "It's just the regular rhetoric that we hear, and we are getting used to it."

Dykstra believes it's over-production of milk that's to blame, not Canada.

"It's easy to point fingers to certain areas," he said. "I think it's the total overproduction that is happening at the world, which is also one of the reasons we have seen a drop in our returns as well."

Dykstra said the U.S. has increased its dairy exports to Canada by 17 per cent over the last few years.

New Brunswick farmers estimate it caused about $3 million in losses in this province alone — and more than $200 million on the national scale.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Dairy Farmers of New Brunswick, Paul Gaunce, believes the current trade agreement works well for both Canada and the U.S., rejecting's Trump's view it's a one-sided deal.

He finds it hard to believe drastic changes would come about, adding he's confident the federal government will continue to defend the interests of Canadian dairy farmers.

David MacNaughton, Canada's ambassador to the U.S., was in Fredericton Wednesday, part of a country-wide trip briefing provincial cabinets about trade issues.  

Despite the tough talk, he said the relationship with the new Trump administration has been extremely positive, and his office will continue to work on finding solutions to disputes.

"I think what we've got to really reinforce with the Americans is that our prosperity is intricately tied together," said MacNaughton. "Having trade disputes, I mean, we're always going to have little things where we have disagreements about.  

"But this relationship is unique in the world. It's the biggest trading relationship in the world, it works extremely well, and I hope that we can work together to try and solve these problems, which is what our goal is, and I think that's what we'll be trying to do."