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Agricultire This Week - Trade deal will be interesting

And the death knell has sounded. Canada’s supply-managed agriculture sectors will quickly disappear now that our country has signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

And the death knell has sounded.

Canada’s supply-managed agriculture sectors will quickly disappear now that our country has signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal.

There will of course be some producers of eggs and poultry and milk which will survive, but the broader industries have been handed over to exports.

There will be those who wonder why Mexican or American farmers can produce eggs or milk at lower costs than Canadian farmers?

There are of course a number of factors, from climate, to wage costs to government regulation to farm size.

The latter two mentioned should raise a few consumer eyebrows.

Some might think the sectors can evolve and survive, but the federal government is already talking billions in compensation, if the fine print of TPP ultimately allows such pay-outs, which is essentially going to be a buy-out as quotas once a high value asset become worthless, and farms begin to fail under import pressures.

Milk and eggs have long been staples in our diets, and the idea of a country having little control over regulation is at least reason to wonder.

Certainly that is the case with many foods we consume, and we have come to trust the broader systems, but we need to at least be aware of that element of the change about to take place.

Then there is farm scale.

Many American dairies dwarf those in Canada. Chicken farms producing eggs are the same.

They are the essence of what many see as corporate farms, and many see such farms as a barbaric way to raise livestock.

The farm sector can argue that the stock is well cared for, and such economies of scale are needed, but a segment of the consumer sector will not buy that assertion.

The Canadian consumer who would prefer to buy Canadian might suddenly become a fan of Country of Origin Labelling (COOL).

From a consumer point of view there is merit in having a choice. Should they not be able to ‘buy Canadian’ if that is their desire?

We of course hear the consumer leads markets, but look at the situation of COOL in the United States and you find a system that struggles when beef is American. Is it where the animal in born, fed to market, or processed?

And of course Canadian producers have argued having consumers able to choose where their beef comes from is unfair.

Now all that is not to say many are not applauding the TPP deal.

News releases are flying out from groups representing everyone from bison producers to the auto sector. Some lament the deal and others applaud it. It depends solely on whether you have a domestic market, or an export-focused one.

Exporters love the idea of perceived freer access to foreign markets. I say perceived here because often the access in more theory than reality in such deals.

And that is the other factor of a deal like the TPP.

The expectation of freer market access should be better farm returns. However, over the recent years Canada has inked a number of trade deals and the evidence of better farm returns from those deals is not clear. It is hard to measure when beef has been at historic highs based on cattle numbers and not exports as an example.

That is the bottom line of trade deals, the positives are initially an expectation, and if the reality falls short, it’s too late to reclaim a dairy or poultry sector.

Calvin Daniels is Assistant Editor with Yorkton This Week.