By Nathan Stevens
September 16, 2011
Andrew Coyne, one of Canada’s most respected journalists, has garnered a lot of attention in his recent article in Maclean’s
that turned a harsh eye towards supply management. He makes a number of strong assertions in his article that are worthy of further discussion. This is the third in a series of commentaries that will provide counter-points to those assertions, this time focusing on trade and a final comment on the necessity for scrutiny of the system.
Regarding trade, critics of supply management need to remember that nearly all countries have something that they choose to provide special protection for regardless of any outside factor. Japan has rice production. America has the big five grains that receive tremendous support. Europe has shifted how it provides support, but there is still plenty available to farmers who are willing to engage in new environmental programming. Even in free market dairy regions like Australia, supply control is exerted by forcing farmers to own shares in processors before production can be shipped.
Furthermore, on an aggregate basis, North America is the most open region in the world in terms of agricultural trade. A balanced position that promotes expanded opportunities for those agricultural commodities that are seeking new markets while maintaining the supply management system is achievable. The CFFO is just one of many agricultural organizations that believe that there are many opportunities for export-oriented farmers to realize new opportunities without requiring the dismantling of supply management.
Finally, it is entirely appropriate for scrutiny to be turned towards a system that operates with considerable intervention from government. If supply management stays on target as a system that provides a living for farming families by passing reasonable costs to consumers, then it will continue to have merit. However, if greed and complacency create a system where a handful of farmers are able to gouge consumers at unfair rates, then the system will require an overhaul. Coyne’s article should serve as a reminder to those within supply management that they must always remember the purpose of the system and stay true to it.
Andrew Coyne turned a harsh eye towards supply management in his recent Maclean’s
article. Such scrutiny is necessary and good for regulated industries from time to time. Trade in agriculture needs to be balanced to provide opportunity for export-oriented industries and stability for a supply management system that stays true to its purpose.
Nathan Stevens is the Research and Policy Advisor for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston. It is also archived on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.