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Globe Editorial

Our dairy farmers are also milking it Add to ...

The Dairy Farmers of Canada, representing one of the most tenaciously protectionist Canadian interest groups, have commissioned a valuable report that reveals the extraordinary degree of protectionism that favour farmers in the United States.

The 533-page study, written by Peter Clark of the consultancy Grey, Clark, Shih, makes a persuasive case that, if one adds up direct and indirect subsidies by all three levels of government in the U.S., 62 per cent of American farmers' revenue is attributable to taxpayers' money. For dairy in particular, the report concludes that U.S. governmental support is equal to 94 per cent of the market return from milk, "insulating [dairy producers]from the need to earn a profit."

Canadian dairy farmers can fairly point to what they are up against within North America. But the combination of supply management and import restrictions favouring dairy producers is a major obstacle to Canada in its efforts to reach - and deepen - bilateral and multilateral trade agreements: as in the negotiations with the European Union and in the Doha Round of the World Trade Organization. And unwillingness to admit the possibility of agricultural concessions has excluded Canada from the promising Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Quebec has an especially paradoxical attitude, with its enthusiastic support for trade liberalization and its dogged protectionism on dairy.

Just as a pot can call a kettle black, so also a dairy cow is entitled to say that the other inhabitants of the farmyard are animals. In any case, a protectionist on either side of a border is still a protectionist.

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