Angry dairy farmers confront MacAulay at P.E.I. announcement

What was supposed to be an infrastructure announcement quickly became a shouting match on Friday when dairy farmers unleashed their frustrations on federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay.

The farmers had plenty to say about the new Canada, U.S., Mexico agreement (USMCA) — not the least of which is that it could force some of them out of business.

Angry dairy farmers moved from the fields to the community hall in Cardigan, P.E.I., to confront MacAulay about the trade deal that opens Canada’s retail market to American products.

“If all the stipulations go through, we could be looking at closing the doors,” said farmer Dewar MacLeod.

A former dairy farmer himself, MacAulay says he feels their pain, but the government had to sacrifice something for the greater good of the Canadian economy.

“It’s unfortunate for the dairy farmers to take such a hit. 3.59% in quota was a hit,” MacAulay said. “I can tell you $2 billion a day cross the border. We cannot have that stopped.”

MacAulay promised to take farmers’ concerns back to Ottawa. He added they will be fully and fairly compensated for their losses.

“Him and his government have the power to stop this before it comes into effect,” said farmer Daniel MacDonald. “I was thinking on the way down here that we would be able to maybe, possibly change his mind.”

As he was leaving, MacAulay said that wasn’t going to happen.

“I could vote against it, but I will not vote against it,” he said.

The USMCA is expected to be signed by the three countries at the end of November; most of the provisions however won’t come into effect until 2020.

When they do, farmers like Deanna Doctor want consumers to know exactly what they’re buying.

“What if we had a big ‘made in the USA’ for anything that comes from America,” said Doctor. “It makes your choice so much easier in a grocery store; there are solutions.”

That will come after the deal is finalized.

For now Island dairy farmers vow to fight the agreement until the cows come home.

Daniel McDonald’s Farm has been in the family for five generations, and he’s saying if this trade deal goes through he doubts there will be a sixth.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jonathan MacInnis.





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