Business & Policy
From the Editor: January 2013
Evolving Supply Management
By Kristy Nudds
In 2012 we celebrated the 40th anniversary of supply management in Canada. Ironically, it was also a year supply management faced some of its fiercest attacks from media and economic groups.
Most of the attacks stemmed from speculation that supply management would be “on the table” if Canada was allowed to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). A similar argument was made for Canada’s participation in free-trade talks between the European Union (EU) and Canada, known as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).
Although what is being discussed at the TPP and CETA negotiations has so far remained a secret (at the time of writing this column), our federal government has remained steadfast in its support of supply management.
Many political commentators do believe the federal government when it says it will continue to support supply management, but they also believe that the supply-management system needs to evolve in order for that support to be maintained in the long term.
Maintaining both political and consumer support is “ripe for the picking,” according to Robin Horel, president and CEO of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council (CPEPC). Speaking at the Poultry Service Industry Workshop in Banff, Alta., last October and at an educational “school” held by Lohmann in Niagara Falls in September, Horel said the government is very receptive to supply management at this time. However, he feels that the system must be modernized and that “we need to take a hard look at where efficiencies can be made.”
In his talk on “Supply Management: The Next 40 Years”, Horel reviewed how and why supply management began – an important history lesson considering many farmers today producing under supply management are two to three generations removed from the chaos and “chicken-and-egg war” of the 1960s and 1970s.
But it has had some unintended consequences and the media and detractors are noticing, Horel said. Contentious issues such as interprovincial movement of chicken, quota value, allocation and retail prices will be difficult to defend unless we modernize our beliefs and let go of the this-is-the-way-things-have-always-been-done type of thinking.
That’s why the CPEPC has been working with its sector members on a strategic initiative that is attempting to address these issues while building on the trust it has established with customers and consumers, and we will have more information on this in future issues.
One of the greatest benefits of supply management has been the power it gives stakeholders to establish an environment that allows predictable, reasonable returns while tackling emergency preparedness, animal welfare and food safety issues more effectively and easily than other livestock and commodity sectors. However, it is the inability to resolve internal issues in order to clear the way for dealing with cost issues that could prove detrimental, said Horel.
Horel was candid in his comments about the challenges our industry faces, and although he didn’t know at the time of his talk just what results would come out of discussions with sector members, he was firm in his belief that the system needs to evolve and the industry needs to maintain its social licence with consumers or that covenant will be lost eventually.