Laval prof challenges former MP’s supply management report

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Laval University economist Maurice Doyon takes the University of Calgary’s Martha Hall Findlay to task for ‘misguided and not fact based’ reporting on the price of milk in Canada


About time someone sit down and get the facts straight about the price of milk in stores. I think there is to any people shouting their mouth off about the price which likely don,t even drink or buy milk.Milk is a fair price when you buy it onsale, I just wish they can get more dairy farmers out there and downsize the size of the farms so more people can make a living.

The fact that this former MP can even get that article to print is beyond me. She rattles off just like everyother pundit who hates the system, rarely do they do there homework. One thing to consider which i believe is important, is with supply management we control our own food source - we know what we are eating! Is this not more important than bringing in anything just because it appears to be cheaper. Hormone filled milk (USA), Brazilian Chicken - do we even know if the kill plants are being monitered properly or is it some back barn slaughter house. In Canada we ;hava the CFIA to ensure our product and our farmers are growing the best possible product. Without supply management we are left to the judgement of an importer who just want to buy the cheapest product he/she can. And it could be at the our (Canadian) health risk.

Trevor De Jong

Sorry to infom you that the food industry in Canada is comprised of much more than milk, eggs and chicken. Please don't imply that supply management is the only system capable of delivering safe, high quality food. It's a bit of an insult to the "rest of us" who have to compete in the real world of economics.

My daughter shops at a very-busy downtown Toronto supermarket in which, other than for milk, eggs, butter, and hydroponic tomatoes, there is absolutely no other perishable product in the store (and they have a lot of perishable products ranging all the way from seafood to nuts) with any sort of label to indicate where it was grown, and/or packaged - and, guess what, none of the customers, including my daughter who is a University-educated farm-girl, cares one iota. In addition, when I spent an hour looking around in this store earlier this week, I was hard-pressed to find non-perishable products produced and/or packaged in Canada, and, once again, the consumers appeared to not care. The fact of the matter is that if it wasn't for supply managed farmers trying to fearmonger us about food safety for their own narrow self-interest, particularly when it comes to the consumption of un-pasteurized milk, we'd never even hear about it. In addition, when it comes to food safety, we've had listeriosis issues, and water issues, right here in Ontario, and back barn slaughter houses seem to always be with us. As far as I'm concerned, far more critical than any so-called health risk avoided by supply management, is the financial risk to consumers, and the pitting of farmer against farmer, we endure by having to put up with it.

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

Maurice makes some excellent points about why we should keep Supply management in Canada. Also, he does a tremendous job of breaking down the flaws of the MHF report. I wonder if the newspaper writers around the country will pick up on this letter? They should if they want to have some appearance of presenting both sides of this controversial topic.

All you have to do is look at Health Canada trying desperately to control the production and marketing of licensed marijuana grow-ops.

The government can't manage the supply for 20,000 people. They are dropping the licensing system preferring the people use mail-ordering.

I can see the chaos in our food supply system when the government dismantles it. Plus the cost of food will rise because more inspectors will be needed to try and oversee the regulated products.

US milk would cost $2.71CAD per 4L jug. That's quite a bit more than 20%. These are prices I saw with my own eyes on a recent trip. And the Butte price wasn't at a Walmart or Costco, but at a smaller local grocery.

Idaho is full of smaller dairies -smaller than I have ever seen in Canada. There are large ones, but there area also many small, family run ones, as well as many smaller creameries that offer direct to customer sales. I guess Supply Management doesn't preserve the idealistic small family farm as well as the proponents say.

You do know that the US pays subsidies to their dairy farmers, right?

US is about to bailout it dairy farmers by 290 million. A recent article talked about reform for the dairy industry to stabilize the industry.

Thank you Maurice Doyon for a great rebuttal. Hall-Findlay and I briefly "debated" this Tuesday on CBC's Lang and O'Leary Exchange. The many errors in her report are being quickly replicated in the media. The Canadian public deserves a proper debate.

Defense of the principles of supply management - fairness, equity, respect, sustainability, cooperation - is in many ways a defense of Canada.

Discussion occurring on

Wendy Holms

"a defense of Canada" Really???? How about the defense of the free enterprise farmer who has to compete with the dairy or chicken guy next door. I believe it's time for a level playing field.
A true defense of Canada would be to put the trading interests of millions of Canadians ahead of a few Canadian millionaires!

suppy mgmt is not about pitting different farming sectors against each other. Dismantling SM will do nothing to improve other ag sectors in Canada!(take a close look at what's happened across the pond) (take a look a the crop and beef sectors in the US, all SUBSIDIZED to stay afloat) And for a reality check... we are not millionaires, we are farmers working hard to build a profitable and sustainable industry a fairly common goal in business; yours and mine!

One of the most-basic principles of economics, verified time, and time again, by economic history, is that many people benefit when protectionist benefits are taken away from the favoured few. Therefore, ending supply management will not only level the playing field in the farm community, it will benefit consumers as well as our far-larger export-reliant sector. In short, in economics, it's a fallacy to claim that you can't bring one group up by bringing another one down.

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

Why does every dairy farmer in the country, and their apologists like Maurice Doyon, and Wendy Holm, continue to ignore the data provided by the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (DFO), in late 2010, which showed that Ontario consumers were paying almost 38% more for milk than US consumers, and that the farm gate price of milk in Ontario was within pennies per liter of the US retail price?

I mean, really, if even DFO, long-known to be among the best "cherry-pickers" when it comes to citing numbers to try to defend supply management, is willing to state publicly that Ontario consumers are paying this much more than US consumers, the true difference is likely to be well-more than that.

Even if we were to agree that DFO is right when they claim 38%, it's still too high a price for consumers to pay, and still does nothing to address the fact that supply management, by definition, clearly pits farmers against one another.

Why don't dairy farmers get it? - could it be greed?

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

I've listened to enough debates to know what is going on here. Findley's price assumption is probably not exactly accurate although her contention about higher prices is. So, the other side jumps all over that small point and ignores the most important part of the report. That point is that few if any political ridings would be affected by the end of SM. Farmers are less than 2% of the population and SM farmers are 9% of that 2%. You're looking at less than .2% of the population. The rest of the population would gain from the end of SM.

If a Conservative government ended supply management, not only would they not lose seats in rural areas, because even in rural seats there are more voters, even among farmers, who would approve of getting rid of supply management than who would disapprove - they'd also gain considerable urban seats at the expense of the Liberals and the NDP, by taking credit for lowering the price of dairy and poultry products. What's not to like about political odds like that?

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

Great discussions, however we need to broden the thinking as follows:
1. The governments restrict funding to universities in order to control the amount of medical students coming out with degrees.
2. If any person want to get a cab licence in any city in the US and or Canada they need to buy it from another cab operator restricting the Licences creating indirect supply.
3. I wanted to get into the oil business. I was told to buy the drilling rights from the proper departments. Is this supply management?
4. If other countries subsidize their farmers, how will our farmers compete?

(1) According to my sister (an Opthalmalogist) we have more than enough doctors - they just tend to gravitate to big cities. In addition, medical degrees, unlike quota, can't be bought, sold, or inherited.
(2) nobody has to take a cab -they can ride the bus, walk, or take their own car - it isn't a closed system.
(3) no it's not supply management because there isn't a 200% tariff on oil imports.
(4) we'll compete just fine - all we need is to level the playing field to take away the absolute, and unfair, advantage currently enjoyed by dairy and poultry farmers - cows will still be milked, and eggs laid, it's just that the prices received by dairy and poultry farmers will be about a third less than what they are now.

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

A lot of people talk about cheaper milk in the USA ,but I don't think we should be arguing over price. We need to understand what is really going on and what is at stake.manny countries subsidize dairy production heavily.WHY ?? Do we think other countries actualy want to supply us with cheap milk ,we might fool a few people talking about access to our market.
What contries want that subsidize agriculture is to maintain a healthy production sector in there own country so they can feed themselves now and into the future,because access to food is important,so they subsidize whatever it takes to keep farmers on farms and producing food and dump the surplus on the world market to help offset the cost of there programs. Canada has found a way to maintain a healthy production system with out subsadizes that is fair sustainable and efficent. So the question is do we want to rely on dollers payed by foreign goverments to feed our famalies or do we want produce our own food here in Canada

I don't understand how, and why, farmers can waffle all over the place claiming price isn't important when it comes to what we sell, but then turn around and care not one iota when somebody they buy from goes broke because they sold things for a penny too much. Come on, really, it IS about the 38% consumers have to pay EXTRA that they need not have to pay, particularly the poorest group of consumers who, as a percentage of their income, pay a disproportionate amount of money for no other reason than to pamper the richest group of farmers, thereby also creating discord in the farm community. Furthermore, if you believe, for even a second, that the monster of supply management is, in any way, "fair, sustainable, and efficient", then, with respect, you are dreaming in five shades of technicolour. Supply management isn't fair to consumers, it isn't fair to other farmers, it isn't fair to exporters, it isn't sustainable because we now have a system where you can sell dairy quota but can't buy it, and as for being efficient, it might be when compared to government, but when compared to the real world, you've gotta be kidding.

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

This type of argument always drives me crazy because if our local farm supply outlets gave us the same argument about why we should support them, rather than outfits like Farmers of North America which source products from God-only-knows where, have no local employees, pay no local taxes, and may, or may not, stand behind what they sell, we'd think they were bonkers. As an example of this kind of double-standard, one of my friends tells about his neighbour, a dairy farmer, boasting about how much he saved on baler twine by importing it from Europe. This farmer cares not one whit about anyone but himself, and his ability to have an absolute advantage over 30 million consumers and over 90% of the rest of the farming community - why should we be forced to support people like him when he won't willingly (and doesn't believe he needs to) support anyone else in return?

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

Adam Smith's published the Wealth of Nations in 1776. We would look askance at any doctor that espoused medical theories of 200 years ago, yet right wing economists pull up theories of this vintage all the time to justify globalization and we let it pass.

Smith describes well the robustness of Main Street capitalism with its many buyers and sellers and low barriers to entry. But when nations weaken competition legislation and foreign ownership rules, firms that CAN benefit from market concentration (they are selling into or buying from a market sector characterized by many buyers and sellers) do, morphing into powerful oligopolies and oligopsonies that may well duke it out on international markets but create domestic "no-competition" zones that harm local players.

Today, fair markets - particularly in Canada's food sector - do not exist. Without the equity imposed by supply management, our farmers would be price takers.

And look just how well that has worked out internationally. In Australia, farmers are saying no to calls for more milk for export because price is below production costs. Farmers in the UK are circling the tractors over cuts to farm-gate prices. On Thursday, the U.S. Agriculture Department announced that struggling U.S. dairy farmers, who have seen milk prices plunge 30 percent since 2008, will receive a one-time subsidy payment.

In Israel, by contrast, farmers are well supported by long term production quotas plus an annually adjusted guaranteed price system.

It Adam was here today, he would laugh and say, "Look, we didn't contemplate the international mobility of capital and labour, we didn't contemplate agency failure (that elected politicians would allow powerful mergers against the interests of the sector). We didn't contemplate globalization. You simply can't take the rules that govern markets in a free and competitive environment and apply them today.

Again, cows are not widgets. U.S. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson — who called yesterday's subsidy announcement "an essential stop-gap measure" to help farmers remain in business — said current U.S. dairy supports "are clearly not doing enough to help. We need to look at ways we can reform dairy policy to ensure that it provides adequate support for the long-term success of the industry," and said changes should be made to the next farm bill to accomplish that.

We should be exporting policy, not importing cheap milk derivatives so processors can lower bottom lines and attract expansion capital to play on export markets.

It is communities that are important here. And sustainability. Not the export interests of multinational players. Not the irrepressible rants of "globalizationists" singing an old and tired tune that carries no relevance in food policy talks.

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Wendy Holm

As a so-called economist, you have a professional obligation to dispel the myths of protectionism, not promote it. You have also completely ignored the basics of every first year economics course, as exemplified by the example of the repeal of the protectionist Corn Laws, almost 175 years ago in England, which is that the economy, and consumers, all benefit when legislated privelege is taken away from the pampered few. Shame on you for claiming we should export policies which force fresh pizza makers to use high priced domestic mozzarella cheese, while allowing frozen pizza makers to use cheaper imported mozzarella. Shame on you for ignoring the well-known economic and public policy problems caused by protectionist legislation ever since the lessons of the Corn Laws. Shame on you for ignoring the fact that supply management is a regressive consumption tax disproportionately paid by the poor. Shame on you for ignoring the fact that a number of US dairy farm organizations recently voted solidly against pursuing any sort of supply management program. Shame on you for inferring that our export-oriented hog and livestock sectors are the authors of "irrepressible rants of globalization", and/or that their export orientation has "no relevance in food policy talks". Shame on you, therefore, for inferring that Canadian dairy and poultry farmers are the only farmers in Canada who matter. Shame on you for ignoring the increasingly-obvious fact that protectionist legislation in the form of supply management, pits farmers against one another. And finally, shame on you for utilizing your educational background to promote flawed economic principles - you, of all people, know better than to pander to the fears, the prejudices, and the innocence, of laypeople.

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

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