Farm hand Mike MacEachern works in the milking parlour Wednesday at Kamps Dairy west of Lacombe. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Trump wrong on Canadian dairy: Central Alberta producers

Canada’s dairy system is latest target for U.S. president’s criticism

U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent dairy rants have left a sour taste in the mouths of local producers.

“He’s either misinformed or is deliberately trying to stir the pot,” said Albert Kamps, a Lacombe-area dairy farmer and past-chairman of Alberta Milk.

Trump cranked up the rhetoric on Wednesday with an early-morning tweet.

“Canada has made business for our dairy farmers in Wisconsin and other border states very difficult. We will not stand for this. Watch!” he tweeted.

Kamps said Trump is wrong if he believes Canadian milk producers are the source of the U.S.’s dairy troubles.

“While we do feel for those dairy farmers in Wisconsin, their issue there is huge over-production in the United States,” he said on Wednesday.

“I can’t say we could blame Canada for their issues down there.”

The dispute revolves around a product called ultrafiltered milk, which involves taking the butter fats out of milk and concentrating the protein component. It is used to make dairy products such as cheese and yogurt.

Ultrafiltered milk has always been tariff free and U.S. imports have risen steadily because of a trade loophole. To encourage Canadian production, a price was set on a new class of industrial milk priced at free market world prices.

“The United States was not able to compete with that, with the dollar exchange and freight, of course,” he said.

Critics contend Canada’s supply management dairy system, which regulates milk prices, is not fair to U.S. farmers.

But Kamps said that criticism is unfounded.

“It’s a domestic policy for a product that, by and large, stays in Canada,” he said. “Our market is the Canadian marketplace.”

Kamps points out Canada imports about $500 million worth of U.S. milk products and only exports $100 million.

That amounts to a large trade deficit, an issue Trump has frequently complained about when the U.S. is at the other end.

Kamps does not believe Canada’s dairy industry is seriously threatened by the trade dispute.

“I think a lot of it is bluster. I don’t think Canada is in a position where we’re willing to be bullied by that kind of behaviour.”

Tom Kootstra, a Ponoka-area dairy farmer and chairman of the Milk Council, issued a statement on Friday addressing Trump’s comments.

“We’re not going to shy away or be bullied from promoting our proudly Canadian product,” he said. “Our marketing system works in our country and it’s not for other countries to determine what the best fit is for Canadians.”

There have been no changes to Canadian regulations related to dairy imports, taxes or dairy tariffs, he says.

“We are pricing our product competitively by adapting to our changing market.”

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