By John Clement
September 23, 2011
Over the past few weeks, my colleague Nathan Stevens has been discussing different dimensions of supply managed marketing systems for agricultural products. In particular, he’s been responding to comments made by Andrew Coyne, a columnist for MacLean’s
magazine. As the commentary series progressed, we had a number of readers correspond with us about why the organization chooses to become involved in a debate about supply management.
It should be noted that the views contained within the CFFO Commentary are those of the author and don’t necessarily represent the organization’s policy. But that being said, it should also be noted that the CFFO has not been a stranger to debates about the merits of different types of marketing systems. In fact, debates about the fairness of supply management have been frequent over several decades, with members not shy about expressing their opinions about the system. Here is a sampling of just a few diverse comments assembled from our earliest official position statements at the CFFO:
· In 1974, the organization said “The Christian Farmers Federation sees supply management as a tool which can be used effectively against injustice, misuse of power, opportunism, unfair competition, and low returns to family farmers. When thus used, the Christian Farmers Federation will endorse supply management programs. But there is no built-in guarantee that the power that comes with this tool will in fact be used in this way; just as an axe, though great for splitting wood, has no inherent qualities that will keep it from being used to split heads.”
· In 1976, the organization said “In commodities where long-term incomes are adequate or where no major injustices exist for family farm producers, supply management is too drastic a stabilizing measure.”
· In 1980, the organization said “farmers have a history of contributing their return to investment back to the industry in some form. This is a basic cause of high quota values. The fact that farmers do this does not destroy the legitimacy of a return on investment.”
· In 1981, the organization said “we continue to express our concern about the unacceptably high dairy quota values.”
That tradition of accepting the numerous benefits of supply managed systems, while also being committed to both thoughtful criticism and reform of those systems, has been a hallmark of the CFFO and continues to this day. Our members regularly meet and discus items related to the structure of their industries, with an eye towards making them work better. And other marketing systems, like those used for hogs, have regularly drawn the attention of the organization.
I don’t see discussions on supply management, nor discussions on what improvements can be made, disappearing any time soon from within the life of the CFFO. In fact, it’s likely that thoughtful dialogue will continue on for years to come.
John Clementis the General Manager of 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.