From the editor: July-August 2015
Kristy NuddsFeatures Business & Policy Trade Business/Policy Canada
A Success Story
Is supply management on the chopping block? It’s a question stakeholders have asked each time the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have made the evening news since Canada joined the discussions three years ago.
And now that it appears as though a TPP deal may be soon reached, there is worry that the federal government will sacrifice our supply management system to appease the demands of the United States and New Zealand, two countries that are frothing at the mouth to gain access to Canada’s dairy and poultry markets.
Much of the information available regarding the TPP is conjecture but one thing is for certain: the federal government has consistently voiced its belief in supply management, saying it is not up for negotiation in the agreement (see page 6). In fact, every country involved in the TPP wants to protect its own programs.
There may be some concessions made as was the case of the recent trade talks between Canada and the European Union when supply management was also rumoured to be on the cutting-room floor. They were finalized last year, and supply management remained intact.
The TPP does have benefits for other sectors of agriculture, but it doesn’t have to be pushed through at the expense of supply management, and the feds know it.
Why would the government want to remove a system that allows farmers to cover their cost of production, make a living from what they grow and produce safe food?
The answer may lie south of the border. One has to wonder why the U.S. wants access to the Canadian chicken market when the structure of its own industry is under fire. There is a growing movement in the U.S. right now against chicken-processing companies and the integration model used.
In particular, several chicken-grower “whistleblowers” have begun to speak out against the perils of being contract growers for large companies. One whistleblower in particular has allowed a documentary crew onto his farm in the film “Cock Fight” (available on YouTube). As the “chicken farmer who owns no chickens,” Craig Watts makes a compelling case for the U.S. needing to take a second look at the integration model. His processor, Perdue, hasn’t dropped him as a grower for speaking out, but the company said Watts needed some “assistance” on how to do a better, more efficient job at producing chickens.
Watts’ farming ability aside, he and his fellow whistleblowers are getting their message out. Another soon-to-be-released documentary film called Under Contract has been gaining traction on social media and was the subject of a recent segment by John Oliver on his Last Week Tonight show. Country singer Willie Nelson and Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur recently wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post arguing that grower contracts impede first amendment rights and insisting that the system must change.
These activists may be on to something. They have drawn the public’s attention to deficiencies in the U.S. system and perhaps eyes are on Canada not as an enviable model but as a ready source of product.
This month’s issue, our annual Who’s Who of the poultry industry, is a testament to Canada’s poultry farmers and how supply management is so beneficial to them and to the industry as a whole.
We hope reading their stories will remind you that despite the challenges we have a system that works.
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