Dairy cows feed at Parksville’s Morningstar Farm. — Black Press file photo

Dairy cows feed at Parksville’s Morningstar Farm. — Black Press file photo

Vancouver Island farmer says new USMCA deal ‘terribly weakens’ Canadian dairy industry

Clarke Gourlay of Morningstar Farm says trade deal will negatively impact his farm’s milk production

Clarke Gourlay, dairy farmer and co-owner of Morningstar Farm in Parksville, is disappointed in the renegotiated trade pact between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, saying it terribly weakens the Canadian dairy industry.

The U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) was announced late Sunday, after 14 months of negotiations.

Soon after the agreement was announced, Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) issued a statement claiming USMCA will sacrifice dairy farmers’ livelihood and weaken the dairy sector. The organization said the deal would give U.S. farmers greater access to Canada’s dairy industry, worth about 3.6 per cent of Canada’s current dairy market.

“The announced concessions on dairy in the new USMCA deal demonstrates once again that the Canadian government is willing to sacrifice our domestic dairy production when it comes time to make a deal,” said Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada in a Monday press release. “The government has said repeatedly that it values a strong and vibrant dairy sector – they have once again put that in jeopardy by giving away more concessions.”

According to the DFC, for consumers, each concession replaces Canadian dairy products.

“The USMCA agreement is opening the gate even further by letting foreign products, made according to standards inferior to our own, onto the shelves of our grocery stores,” states the release.

Gourlay, whose farm is home to Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Ltd., said the new deal will affect his farm’s milk production.

“We will produce less milk because of the importing,” he said. “It definitely means that we will be producing less Canadian milk which is not good for Canadian dairy farmers. It means that Canadian consumers will be purchasing more milk produced on environmentally unsustainable farms with illegal Mexican labour.”

He added that the deal allows for “a lot more substandard milk for the Canadian consumer.”

“We’ve already given away a portion of our market to Europe, to Asia and now to the United States,” Gourlay said.

The Canadian dairy sector employs more than 220,000 Canadians and contributes close to $20 billion a year to Canada’s gross domestic product.

karly.blats@pqbnews.com