Further Destruction of Canada's Supply Management Systems

– Dougal MacDonald –

For many years, reactionary forces in the U.S. and Canada have been trying to dismantle Canada's supply management system for agricultural products, such as milk, in order to open up profitable opportunities for the private monopolies in Canada, the U.S., and elsewhere. This attack on Canadian farmers and workers will have dire consequences for their way of making a living and for the communities they provide with their products and services.

Many, many agricultural products fall under the supply management system in Canada. Dairy is just one. In the early 1970s, dairy became the first commodity in Canada to operate a national supply management system, managed by the Canadian Dairy Commission. Dairy has been much under attack in the monopoly media lately with various spokespersons for private industry declaring, without a shred of evidence, that the supply management system is the cause of rising prices for dairy products. The solution? Why privatization of course!

The actual agricultural producers were responsible for creating the supply management system. Provincial governments were pressured by farm organizations to create the marketing boards that represent the producers. The boards are controlled and funded primarily by the producers through mandatory membership assessments, which can only be changed by a majority vote of licensed producers. The boards fund research, new initiatives, and nutrition education and strive to provide producers with accurate and timely information and feedback regarding the industry.

Canada's provincial agricultural commissions and marketing boards were developed to fulfill the needs of Canadian producers, not foreign monopolies. They render account to the actual producers as to the price that is put on the value they have produced. They oppose the dogma of the ruling circles that some mysterious "free market" can set "fair" prices, when every sector of the economy is dominated by monopolies, like Nestlé, that manipulate prices to suit their narrow interests.

Rather than causing rising prices, supply management systems have a long record of maintaining stable and consistent prices for producers, processors and consumers, ensuring a constant and certain supply of quality products and eliminating reliance on subsidies. For example, since February 2001, 100 per cent of Alberta's dairy producer revenues have been derived from the market. In Alberta, the dairy industry is estimated to support over $2.5 billion in economic activity.

The agricultural products marketed through supply management systems play an important role in the lives of the people. Over 10,000 Albertans rely on milk for their livelihoods, including dairy producers, veterinarians, nutritionists, researchers, consultants, government workers, equipment salesmen, milk truck drivers and many processing and retail workers.

In fact, the dairy sector is a dynamic and consistent contributor in every Canadian province. The sector's GDP contribution was $19.9 billion in 2016.

The damage that would be caused by eliminating Canada's agricultural supply management systems for milk and other products is incalculable. It would likely mirror the damage caused by Harper's 2012 dismantling of the single desk Canadian Wheat Board (CWB). The remains of the CWB are now owned by the private U.S. monopoly Bunge and serial human rights violator Saudi Arabia. As was the case before the 1935 creation of the CWB, agri-monopolies such as Richardson's once again control the market for Canadian wheat.

Like the destruction of the CWB, the destruction of any of Canada's supply management systems would clearly be another major blow against thinking, social consciousness, and human progress.

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 7 - July 17, 2022

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