“Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”
This rhetorical question has been posed for ages by the more prudish in society to illustrate what they believe are the long term wages of promiscuity - If you give away your virtue, you’ll end up with nothing in the end.
Whether or not this hypothesis is true for love, it could definitely be applied to agriculture policy.
If you listen to the intellectually dishonest rants of the Toronto media and Ottawa political elites, you could swear supply management in our dairy, poultry and egg farming sectors is responsible for everything from Ebola and ISIS to Miley Cyrus and UGG boots.
Andrew Coyne has repeatedly used his column in the National Post to denounce supply management as a ‘disgrace’. When Stephen Harper was president of the National Citizens Coalition in 1998 he called it a ‘price fixing cartel’ but Martha Hall Findley’s remarks when she was running against Justin Trudeau for the Liberal Party leadership are the most disturbing;
“The time, however, may now be ripe (to dismantle supply management). The drastic reduction in the number of farmers involved in the supply-managed sectors, their concentration in certain areas, and changed political and electoral realities mean that politically, it may indeed now be much more possible than has been assumed.”
Allow me to translate: because rural Canada is now small and politically unthreatening in her mind, it’s a perfect time to pass laws that will sell out Canadian farmers.
Indeed, these attitudes are reflective of a political class that is loaded with;
• People who have never worked a day in their life at a real job
• People who couldn’t find a farmer even if you drew them a diagram
• People who venture into realms they know nothing about
Supply management is not what these elites say it is. It’s the bulwark upon which much of our rural communities are built and the shield that protects it from heavily subsidized foreign agricultural interests.
The dairy sectors in the United States and Europe are much better at milking taxpayers and harvesting politicians than they are at actually doing their jobs. The EU spends $55 billion each year on dairy subsidies. Its average dairy farmer relies on that money for 41 percent of their income. The United States spends about $4 billion a year on dairy subsidies. We spend nothing.
In Canada, supply management ensures that small family farms can make a living without having to go to taxpayers every year looking for a bailout. It also ensures that most of the milk, eggs and poultry you buy at the grocery store is local. Contrary to the unbelievably dishonest claims of its opponents, supply management also produces food at competitive prices to other jurisdictions. The system isn’t perfect but I would challenge you to find one that is.
What’s behind this attack on our way of life? Right wing corporate ideology.
Supply management is built on the belief that commerce exists to serve society and not the other way around. It’s based on an understanding that a nation must be able to feed itself in any circumstances.
It’s also built on the self-evident truth that a rural community with hundreds of smaller family farms where farming is something you are rather than something you do is a vastly different ‘community’ than one with a couple of gigantic factory farms ran by owners who live in other countries thousands of miles away.
Take a drive one day through the back country roads of rural Perth and Wellington counties, observe the Elysian fields, breathe in the air and maybe even talk to the person behind the plow. Only then will you fully understand what is truly at stake if we give away our virtue in future trade negotiations.