Sen. Charles E. “Chuck” Schumer, D-N.Y., called on U.S. trade officials to make Canada’s dairy pricing policies a priority during the ongoing renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“Don’t take dairy off the table until you get a better deal for our farmers,” Schumer said, while holding a half-gallon of Upstate Farms milk during an appearance in Avon on Monday.
Schumer said Canada’s actions, which include high tariffs and new dairy pricing policies, have created a “Dairy Wall” that has cost local dairy producers millions of dollars while limited access for U.S. dairy products.
“We are here, in Avon, to tell Canada to stop and ask our trade representatives to rectify this injustice,” Schumer said during the stop at Anderson Farm, 2699 Pole Bridge Rd. “This should be one of our top priorities when renegotiating NAFTA.”
Schumer, the Senate minority leader, was joined by fourth-generation farm owner Jim Anderson and family members, John Gould, a Genesee County farmer and president and chairman of O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative in Batavia, and members of Upstate Niagara Co-Op. About 40 people including area dairy farmers and Avon and Livingston County officials were also in attendance.
Dairy farmers and producers, such as the 340 dairy farmers who make up Upstate Niagara Co-Op, and the 400 employees of O-AT-KA Milk, have been severely hurt by Canada’s manipulative trade practices and it will only get worse without action, Schumer said.
Gould said that Canada’s manipulation of the market has been “very harmful.”
“Canada has a long history of erecting barriers to trade when it comes to dairy,” he said. “We are asking, as NAFTA is renegotiated, that they end the gamesmanship of Canada and an agreement is reached that allows access to markets under rules that all trading partners can follow.”
In 2012, O-AT-KA Milk had invested about $16 million in its Batavia plant to make Ultra Filtered Milk, which is used to make cheese and other dairy products that the co-op had been exporting into Canada and which, Schumer said, “Canada very much needed.”
Production of Ulta Filtered Milk accounted for about 180 million pounds, or 20 percent, of the co-operative’s milk volume, according to data from Schumer.
But last year, Canada cut off imports of Ultra Filtered Milk, implemented a 270 percent tariff on milk and a program called “Class 7” pricing that Canada used to triple its milk powder exports. With excess milk production in Canada, the resulting milk powder was then flooded into world markets.
That left American farmers forced to sell their milk, which was being pushed back to them, at much lower costs or risk dumping the milk and receive nothing. The imbalance continues to drive down the price of milk, which farmers said is at its lowest point since the 1980s.
“Canada took a 2-by-4 to the United States,” Schumer said.
O-AT-KA has lost $19 million in annual sales of Ultra Filtered Milk, Schumer said.
“When you hear $19 million it sounds abstract, but if that $19 million were in the pockets of our farmers, they would employ workers, buy farm equipment, and just help our local economy grow,” Schumer said.
Ron McCormick, a fifth-generation dairy farmer from Wyoming County, said if milk prices wouldn’t have dropped as a result of Canada’s actions – which led him to sell milk as far away as Ohio – his farm “would have made an extra $70,000 easily.”
“And then I would have been able to help pay for more equipment. We need more stuff in our barns, to fix a new roof, to fix a lot of things that need to be fixed,” he said.
McCormick said lowering tariffs would bring benefits beyond the farm.
“People don’t realize that for every cow that’s out there, there are five people employed by the dairy and agriculture business,” he said. “People don’t think of a milk truck driver as agriculture.”
Schumer said he wants to see stable and fair rules to allow U.S. farmers to compete in a global economy to sell their dairy products, expand their business and create new local jobs.
Schumer said he and President Donald Trump are in agreement that NAFTA needs to be revised.
Trump has described the agreement as “one of the worse deals our country has ever made” and “a disaster for our country.” Trump has pledged to rewrite the agreement in favor of U.S. industries and interests, and Schumer said the time is now to secure a level playing field with Canada and by expanding market opportunities and eliminate unfair pricing policies.
Schumer said he is pushing to make a dairy-friendly NAFTA a high priority.
“It’s not going to be easy,” he said, “but I think we can get it done.”
By: BEN BEAGLE
Source: The Daily News