Canadian import regulations imperil large share of milk market
BATAVIA — Trade barriers imposed by the Canadian government have dealt an additional blow to the area’s dairy farms, the O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative said Friday.
O-AT-KA was announcing its support for a Congressional call for action — and retaliation if necessary.
Canada is looking to implement a national ingredients strategy that would cause processors to shift away from using American dairy imports in favor of Canadian suppliers. Ontario has already set pricing policies that discourage firms from bringing in ultra-filtered milk from New York.
For the Batavia-based cooperative, that imperils the more than 180 million pounds of farm milk that O-AT-KA markets to Canadian buyers as pure milk proteins — more than 20 percent of the cooperative’s total milk supply.
O-AT-KA Board Chairman John Gould, a Pavilion dairy farmer, said the restrictions would impact hundreds of dairy farmers who already face low milk prices and shrinking New York markets.
“We have relied on the Canadian market since investing $25 million in manufacturing milk protein products at our plant four years ago,” Gould said. “The loss of this market due to Canadian government import barriers couldn’t come at a worse time for dairy farmers.”
Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer has urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman to ramp up all available resources to investigate the Canadian import restrictions, which he said go back on existing trade agreements.
“It clear that Canada’s new restrictive dairy trade and pricing polices is a blatant attempt to clamp down on American dairy products — and that flies directly in the face of fair trade agreements signed by the U.S. and Canada,” Schumer said in a release. “We must take every step possible to preserve fair trade and to protect New York’s dairy farmers, who could be put in grave jeopardy if these rules are fully imposed and implemented.”
“Our New York dairy producers work hard every day to provide for their families and export quality products to the world — and they deserve to know that everyone’s competing on a level playing field.”
Additional calls for action have come from congressmen Chris Collins, R-Clarence and Tom Reed, R-Corning to Canadian Ambassador David McNaughton, and State Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard A. Ball to Ontario Agriculture Minister Jeff Leal.
“Trade with Canada should be a two-way street and we need our U.S. Trade officials to fight fire with fire,” Gould said. “We hope that (legislative and administrative outreach) will help motivate action before more damage is done. Our government needs to use all possible means, including retaliation, until Canada addresses this issue.”