Our Views: Here’s hoping they mean it

For Langley dairy, poultry, and egg farmers, it sounded like potentially good news.

The announcement by the Liberal government this week that the new federal budget includes $3.9 billion in support for “supply-managed farmers” appeared to represent an overdue understanding that Canadian poultry, egg, and dairy farmers will take a hit under newly negotiated free trade deals.

When the Conservative government struck a deal with European and Pacific Rim trading partners to allow more imports of dairy products, it announced plans to compensate affected farmers, promising billions. Then, the Liberals took power, and the idea seemed to have less priority.

Now, however, there is a deal pending with the U.S. that could, according to some projections, mean a 10-per-cent loss of business by the Canadian dairy industry.

That, and the fact an election is looming, seems to have produced a commendable sense of urgency, which led to the announcement of a fiscal cushion in the budget by Finance Minister Bill Morneau.

Up to $2.4 billion in support will be offered to “sustain the incomes of eligible dairy, poultry, and egg farmers,” Morneau said.

Under supply management a farmer must buy a quota, a licence to produce up to a set amount.

Loss of market share will likely have an effect on the value of those quotas, so the federal budget also promises a “Quota Value Guarantee Program” of $1.5 billion to cover the loss.

It sounds promising, but it remains to be seen how much money will actually be spent, assuming the Liberals win the next election, and can safely become indifferent once again.

– D.F.

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