BUSINESS

FEARING AN IMPORT FLOOD

GLEN ALLEN November 19 1990
BUSINESS

FEARING AN IMPORT FLOOD

GLEN ALLEN November 19 1990

FEARING AN IMPORT FLOOD

Dairy farmers Bert and Anna Smail say that the worldwide campaign for more liberalized trade in farm products may prevent their 18-year-old son, Robert, from carrying on the family business. Bert Smail’s father began working the couple’s 240-acre farm in Brinston, Ont., 80 km south of Ottawa, in 1940. The couple now have 30 Holstein cattle, producing 700 litres of milk a day. But they say that they worry that international pressures for freer trade in agriculture will eventually force Canada to accept a flood of cheaper dairy products from the United States and Europe. “It looks to me as if they’re going to open the border,” says Bert Smail, 45, one of Canada’s 35,000 dairy farmers. “I may be able to get along for a while, but Robbie wants to farm, too, and it looks awful bleak for him.”

For the moment, the Smails are protected by Canada’s system of supply man-

agement—an elaborate network of subsidies, fixed prices and production quotas administered by provincial marketing boards. Because of it, consumers pay anywhere from 25 to 100 per cent more in Canada than in the United States for milk products. But Anna Smail, 42, notes that Canadian producers face higher labor, fuel and machinery costs than those in the United States. “I don’t think we can compete with the States,” she says. She recently fired off a half-dozen letters to Agriculture Minister Donald Mazankowski and other parliamentarians, accusing them of failing to do enough to safeguard the interests of Canadian dairy farmers in the current session of world trade talks. She added: “We have to have some kind of restriction at the border. The future of our industry is at stake.”

GLEN ALLEN in Ottawa