The George Morris Centre, an agricultural think tank located at Guelph, has just released a great paper on Canada’s supply management system for the dairy industry. Authored by Al Mussell, he paper argues for a reasoned analysis of the system, rather than the polarized debate we typically hear. There are also a lot of interesting statistics that help put the dairy industry into perspective. There are nearly 13,000 dairy farms in Canada, down from almost 30,000 in 1993. In recent times, quota values in Ontario have been maintained at $25,000 per kilogram of butterfat. This roughly corresponds to the quota required for one dairy cow. Last year, cash receipts in the dairy industry were just under $5.5 billion, which is 14 per cent of total farm cash receipts. B.C. has 9.1 per cent of dairy farm cash receipts, Alberta has 8.5 per cent, Saskatchewan has just 3.0 per cent, and Manitoba has 4.2 per cent. Meanwhile, Ontario has 32.4 per cent of dairy farm cash receipts, while Quebec has a whopping 36.8 per cent. The George Morris paper correctly points out that no Canadian government is going to dismantle supply management because producers are very happy with it and the impact on consumers from higher dairy product prices is minor in the grand scheme of things. However, protection for supply management is threatened by international trade agreements. Rather than an emotional ideological debate, there needs to be a practical discussion on how the system can be improved and allowed to evolve.

I’m Kevin Hursh.

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