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Op/Ed: Dairy Farmers of Canada take issue with Fraser Institute take on supply management

Chief Executive Officer Jacques Lefebvre said the Fraser Institute's reasons have more to do with propaganda than fact.

Re: Supply management impedes supermarkets from keeping pace with demand, Fraser Institute, April 3, 2020

Evidently there’s something about the phrase “unprecedented global pandemic” that the Fraser Institute and authors Jake Fuss and Alex Whalen choose to ignore.

To suggest that we should abandon supply management on a whim because of temporary shortages affecting some products in the aisles of the supermarket in the middle of an international emergency appears to have more to do with propaganda than fact.

Everyone knows where the Fraser Institute stands for greater dependence on the U.S. for supplies and market integration. How is this serving Canadians in the context of COVID-19, as the American administration is cutting off the tap on much-needed supplies?

Furthermore, Fuss and Whalen from the Institute suggest that farmers are responsible for short supplies at retail stores. Anyone who knows how the supply chain operates in the food sector would understand that the near-complete shutdown of the restaurant industry and workforce issues have had an impact on the availability of some food products.

Fuss and Whalen claim that farmers do not want to sell their production and are intentionally causing shortages – do they suggest the same of toilet-paper producers? Of course not! Their whole premise is, in our opinion, at best, flawed.

Eliminating supply management also comes with a hidden cost the authors fail to mention: In many countries where supply management doesn’t exist, dairy production is heavily subsidized, meaning that consumers in those countries pay twice for their milk, and dairy products: once through their taxes and again at the cash register. Using taxpayer money to subsidize production is less transparent to consumers and doesn’t necessarily translate into lower prices!

In fact, average retail prices for the same milk in the U.S. are actually comparable to average prices in Canada. The true cost is hidden in these countries, unlike in Canada’s supply management system where the retail price is all you pay, as the supply-managed sectors do not receive production subsidies.

While the Fraser Institute tasks its authors with attacking our farmers during the pandemic, Canadians know they can trust farmers to get up at the crack of dawn to supply Canadians with the foods they need.

In these unprecedented times, we believe that the Fraser Institute should be offering Canadians more than propaganda and fear mongering.

Jacques Lefebvre is the Chief Executive Officer for the Dairy Farmers of Canada.